I feel like I’ve been thinking about this Christmas since about the time we packed it all up from last year. It’s a little bit of a reach back to childhood when we would count down the days. Release from school for Christmas break would accelerate the excitement. The days leading up would welcome the full presence of decoration, food, and a growing pile of gift-wrapped wonder under a tree that had, once again, stopped taking on water way too soon.
It seems appropriate that Christmas was my first real intersection with God as a child. My earliest memories were of my family wandering into a neighborhood church, that we didn’t otherwise frequent, to take in a candlelight service. In a limited way, I came to understand that there was a first Christmas, and, for most involved, it was also a first intersection with God.
For Mary, it was an unplanned pregnancy. For most of her family, it was likely an unwanted one. When we consider the difficulty of her situation, it seems that her early visit to Elizabeth may have been as much of a necessary and extended sending away, for everyone’s sake, rather than a simple drop-in visit. But the birth of this child came with amazing and direct promises from God – promises to Mary, to Israel, and to everyone, including you and me (Luke 2:31) – promises that would guarantee forgiveness of our sins through an un-brokered accessibility to God and the further promise of the Holy Spirit to intersect and help us in every aspect of our lives.
The pure disruption of this story is enough to make me want to believe that God keeps His promises – every single one. Promises to each of us. The fact that He entered the world subject to poverty conditions and as an ultimate outsider is the hook for me. From complete identification with every young mother giving birth way too soon, to a life-long attentiveness to the poor and rejected, to every difficult circumstance that any of us faces. He knows our story; He’s walked it out Himself; He loves us; He doesn’t forget about any of us.
The earliest days of Compassion First carried such a theme: “He hasn’t forgotten about any of us.” That simple truth has inspired a lot of good work over the years. The belief that a child in the worst of circumstances – even impossible ones – meets the very intention of God and has had an eternal stake in the very reason why He came is a truth that continually motivates us.
We are celebrating Christmas this year with a house full of girls at Sarah’s House, Grace House open with its first resident, and a transition home opening soon. Even more, we celebrate from a distance as so many have been restored back to their own homes and families. We join the fullness of celebration with our friends and families in the East Java cemeteries with the sincere hope that an intersection with Jesus who walks into the center of their world, just as it is, inspires the kind of future that we all dreamed of having when we were children staring at the lights on the tree.
Your generosity has made Christmas possible for so many who otherwise would not have been able to celebrate it in such a manner. While it is at a distance, it is profound and life-changing for those who find themselves in receipt of your kindness. It’s all of us: Our extended staff and their families; our partners in law enforcement; our volunteers, near and far; those who pray over our work and pray for you as well.
And our prayer is simply this: That God would bless you and your family in a profound way this Christmas; that His peace would be present in your home in a manner that you have not previously experienced; and, that you would be inspired in the days ahead as He pursues your heart – much like He does the child at Christmastime.