As I decelerated on the exit from I-85 N, I peered out of the driver window toward an unusual sight that I was able to fully absorb once slowing to a complete stop. As I studied this familiar corner on Cleveland Avenue, I noticed the back of a large square sign that had been plastered with an array of decorative Christmas stickers. As my eyes followed the length of the sign post to the ground, there was a small Christmas tree accented with humble ornaments surrounded by a white, makeshift tree skirt that sat upon a patch of Georgia red clay. As my mind tried to make sense of who could possibly take the time to decorate a public highway corner, I realized that I was sitting beside the living room of someone who sleeps outdoors. How could someone who seemingly has everything to complain about find reason and resources to celebrate Christmas? Overcome with sadness, I could not fathom the kind of memories that are made when one is exposed to the elements on one of the biggest days of the year with absolutely no place to go.
In two weeks, families will gather in grand fashion. Perhaps, your family will attend worship together (since Christmas day falls on 4th Sunday) or maybe you will have a light breakfast at home with out of town guests. Some of you may be recovering from Saturday’s Christmas Eve party because you consumed one glass beyond your egg nog tolerance. At some point during the day, children will stampede toward the Christmas tree to dismantle the perfectly packaged presents that made the living room appear as if you hired Martha Stewart as your interior decorator. With certainty, there will be a feast fit for royal consumption. Not to be limited, your family may engage in some combination of the aforementioned plus much more. All of this will make for a wonderful time of fellowship and memorable laughter and cheer; however, I cannot seem to distance my thoughts from the poor family who had a celebration without adequate shelter.
The scene beside the highway is what Christmas looks like for many people. Further stated, it is strikingly similar to the setting surrounding the birth of our Savior. When others are settled in the comfortable places of life, there are others who must make due outside of the circle of warmth. This Christmas, water in Flint is still contaminated. Some are advocating for the pipeline to be recontinued at the expense of humanity in the cold of North Dakota. New names are following old hashtags and the bodies of young, black men continue to fall. The poor are still with us and there are still too many problems to chronicle. Nevertheless, the joy of Christmas does not come in what is unwrapped from under the tree nor what is pulled from the oven; rather, the joy of Christmas heralds in the reminder that the Savior has come for those in Flint, North Dakota, those that continue to suffer and not least of all, those on the side of the road. We have a Savior who came to a cold world to enlarge the warming circle! That’s Christmas! Rejoice and be glad!