1 John 4:7-21
My heart was clearly not in the right place. I can justify my bad attitude and say that I was just a kid, but that’s not much of a defense. I had already given my life to Jesus and I was already asking Him to give me a loving heart. But that transformation was difficult and halting (and, even today, it still hasn’t been completed yet!).
It was, as I remember it, “The Christmas of My Deep Resentment.” My Mom and Dad had decided to share our Christmas dinner with a stranger. They thought it would be a nice idea to invite somebody over who didn’t have any family, somebody who might be lonely on Christmas, somebody who might enjoy being with children. My sisters and I cautiously agreed to play along, but in my mind was this single thought: “This stranger better not mess up my Christmas!”
I can’t remember exactly how my Mom and Dad found “our stranger,” but I distinctly remember my Dad leaving that Christmas afternoon to pick her up. She was a resident at the state mental facility and she came to our church sometimes. And, as expected, she was thrilled to be coming over for Christmas dinner.
I’d really like to tell you that everything turned out great, that I was surprised by how much fun our dinner was, that our stranger fit in fine. In truth, it was pretty awkward. It was different having a stranger in the house. We actually had to make some sacrifices to help her feel at home. It was uncomfortable.
But many years later, this is what sticks in my mind: how my Mom and Dad showered her with affection, how they listened to her talk, how they included her as if she were family, how they treated her with dignity and respect, how they hugged her and waited on her . . . and loved her.
I have asked God to forgive me for my rotten attitude that Christmas. And I also, often in fact, have thanked God for our stranger that year. When I think of her today, I remember that love is the theme of Christmas – God’s love for us, of course – but, then, our love for others.
As John says it, “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” May that be true for us this Christmas.