I like the answer which Barbara Baumgardner, gives us in her story, “The Aroma of Christmas.”
The first Christmas after my husband died was filled with forced laughter, fake smiles and trying desperately to have a good time.
Twelve months later healing was evidenced by the excitement welling up with me as I prepared for a grand and glorious holiday. The kids and grandchildren were coming to spend Christmas at my home.
I decorated everything I could reach. Poinsettias, holly and mistletoe decorated the rooms. Christmas cassettes filled the air with “Joy to the World” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The aroma of Christmas was the best part because it deliciously replaced the aroma of death that had hung heavily in my home for so long! Spice snicker doodles and chewy lemon sugar cookies produce a spirit-lifting, pungent fragrance. Sticky cinnamon rolls, butter-filled bread twists and golden-brown pumpkin pies found their into the freezer to await a celebration of our Savior’s birthday and a reunion of family and friends.
This year, I could hardly wait to have the family gather for Christmas in my home. But at 7 am three days before Christmas, the first telephone call came. “Mom, I hope you’ll understand. The water here is below zero, and I’ve been up all night with freezing, bursting water pipes. There is no way I can leave this mobile home and come for Christmas.” The second call came only twenty minutes later, ”Mom, with the wind-chill factor, it’s forty-five below. We can’t leave the sheep and the water pipes to come home. Is there any way you can come here?”
As I hung up, I felt very, very alone. I lived only 135 miles away from this daughter and my only grandchildren, but I couldn’t go there for Christmas because I was committed to some people here in town.
I had invited my brother-in-law, who was a widower and his eighty-four-year-old mother to come for Christmas dinner, and a young man from the singles group at church had already accepted, too. And I had told the man across the street that I would bring him a plate of dinner at two o’clock on Christmas Day. He was a blunt old codger in his eighties. He always smelled like stale cigars and had brown goo running down his chin.
And I had invited a single lady friend with an eight-year-old boy to spend Christmas Eve with me and my family. And now my family wouldn’t be here.
“Why Lord?” I protested aloud. “Why can’t I be with my family on Christmas?”
Unexpectedly, an awesome humility silenced my complaining heart. The Lord began to answer me: “I know it’s Christmas, Barbara; it’s my birthday. What did you get me?”
“What do you mean, what did I get you, Lord?”
“Whose birthday is it?” he insisted. “What did you get me?”
“What shall I get you, Lord?” There was only silence. “Could I start by inviting more folks to your birthday party? I could invite the old guy from across the street to bring his dog and sit down to the dinner table with us.”
“And there is that man from the gospel mission who I fired last summer while he was trimming my trees because I didn’t like his attitude.” I began to laugh. “Wouldn’t it blow his mind if I called and invited him to dinner?”
“And the checker from the grocery store who shoveled my driveway the last time it snowed—he’s alone now and will probably eat in a restaurant.”
The list began to grow and soon my table was filled, but not as full as my heart.
The old man across the street could hardly talk, he was so choked with emotion when I invited him to come over and join the crowd for dinner.
I do not remember ever having so much fun preparing Christmas dinner as the day I gave my Christmas to Jesus as a birthday gift. And the meaning of Christmas penetrated my heart in a way I’d not anticipated.
Never have I received such a precious gift as when I watched the man from the gospel mission fill his plate five times, and I sense the Lord’s nod of approval.
Alone at Christmas? Never! It’s Jesus’ birthday, and I’m having a party. You want to come?
May we include those who are alone and lonely to be a part of our Advent season. Amen.