I am pleased to offer my second installment to the Living and Growing column; it is a special honor to contribute a few words during the blessed week of Christmas.
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Many people observe this time of year by emphasizing peace, goodwill and generosity toward others. While those things are certainly admirable, Christmas holds a singular importance for Christians as a holy time, the time to celebrate the arrival on Earth of the Savior of mankind, God's own Son, Jesus Christ.
The Bible tells us in Luke 2:8: "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (New International Version).
The arrival of this Gift of a Savior to redeem mankind from sin is the basis and primary focus of Christmas.
The churches of Juneau and Southeast find innumerable creative ways to celebrate the occasion. The variety is endless: church services tailored to the newcomer; special children's programs, singing Christmas trees, toy and blanket drives, etc. The region is abuzz with people going out of their way to mark this special season.
Our church, RealLife, has undertaken a new ministry this Christmas that characteristically takes us outside our walls (and our comfort zones) and into the community to bless and serve others. Our members have collected, assembled and delivered a Box of Blessings to 30 deserving families around town. Each box contains the basic makings for a Christmas dinner, some small toys and a few household basics. Not an extravagant gift perhaps, but most welcomed by those who received them.
Though the effort may be modest, the small scope is not reflective of the big heart of the business community of Juneau - a very caring cohort who quickly caught RealLife's vision for this ministry. The many merchants and businesses who contributed products or in-kind donations include: Alaskan & Proud, Capital Barbershop, Fred Meyer, GCI, Home Depot and Safeway. River of Glory church donated Bibles to the cause. There was one anonymous donor (You know who you are).
But why go to all this trouble? Why spend precious holiday-season time talking with business leaders, collecting donations, purchasing supplies, and assembling and delivering gift boxes to strangers? The season is already busy enough with just getting our own Christmas to-do lists done, right?
Investing the time and effort to selflessly bless others is not a duty, burden, or imposition. It is a gift in and of itself. When we allow ourselves to be caught-up in the joy of the season, we are overtaken afresh by the magnitude and meaning of the Gift the Father gave to the world, His Son.
This same Spirit of giving overwhelms our hearts, our attitudes, and our actions. When we acknowledge the greatness of the Gift selflessly given, we are inspired to do likewise. Then we do what we can by His example and with His help.
Thirty boxes given from a generous heart may not change the whole world, but it will change ours. Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year.
Mark Everett is senior pastor of RealLife Church in Juneau. For more information, visit the church Web site at www.reallifefoursquare.org.