i've struggled to explain it to people. why, for whatever reason, there is still that undeniable flutter in my chest at the thought of christmas. why i still hold on to the child-like hope that all things can be good on that special day, more specifically that special eve of a day.
tonight i was struck with a sudden memory that embodies the sentiment. a memory of a few christmases in a row, that encompassed the feeling i struggle to describe. my last few years of high school included membership in a club that focused on service. a friend of mine had started the club and i, not to be left out of anything, willingly and curiously joined. the 'service' we rendered on christmas eve forever is blazed in my memory. many people have had similar experiences. well off kids take gifts to families without. we would gather the items weeks in advance, have a party to wrap them, and then bundle up late at night, christmas eve, to deliver them.
i could begin now to talk about how great it felt to me, the warm fuzzies i got, how they were so grateful for us, but i will not. i have a book sitting on my desk titled, when charity destroys dignity. i have heard testimony of a friend about how handouts as a child broke his mother's heart because of her own inability to provide for her children. yet still, there was something alive in those nights. God was moving in those nights. they were not the end all, nominate me for sainthood moments that i originally believed them to be. as i stood, fumbling to find words to communicate with a latino father in tears, i grew to see that night as more than rich girl makes poor family eternally grateful. instead i saw people. people like me. God instilled a hunger in me to give, to help, in whatever way i could. God instilled in me a drive to defend the cause of immigrants, because i saw them for who they were. i have fought at many a dinner table for the respect and understanding of those in our country just trying to make it, while they take the first steps to learn how to live here, including learning the language of the land.
perhaps God let me see poverty as reality so i could live in it too and not begrudge God. perhaps God let me be touched by those lives because He was working all things out for good in all of our lives. perhaps.
all i know is that on these christmas eves, as i lit my candle at my home church's midnight service, i found that indescribable feeling tight in my chest. there were no words to describe it. all i knew was that i was now forever changed. and that God's gift of His only Son meant so much more, not because i had given, but because God had given abundantly more.