As I was looking back through my Christmas Memories book that I write in each year, I saw that 1997 (the same Christmas where I committed my faux pas at the midnight service!) was a banner Christmas in many ways. In the journal for that Christmas under the heading, "New Traditions We started" I wrote: We prayed God would show us how to celebrate the birth of His Son this year. I thought He would probably want us to spend more time in prayer and meditation - a quiet Christmas. But it was one of the most active Christmases we've ever had. Phil and I felt led to not buy each other a gift and instead we gave some money to a friend who is having a hard time. We also invited international college students who didn't have family in the states to celebrate with us in our home. And we learned by "chance" on Christmas Eve about a Spanish family who was in need and we tried to reach out to them.
Looking back, realistically, I figure Phil did buy me a present while I stuck to the "agreement" and didn't get him one... That's kind of how it goes around here.
As for Christmas lunch, I do remember having internationals over - but somehow, I thought we had 30 instead of 13 as my journal indicated! I know that we had people everywhere in our little house and it seems to me that David had sit on the library steps to eat. I also remember using not only my ovens (microwave, convection, and gas stove) but also my neighbor's while I strategized for the big dinner in a way that would have made Napoleon proud!
In the midst of this, on Christmas Eve morning I went out to do some last minute shopping (have I mentioned that I am a procrastinator?) and while I was in a store in W. Little Rock, I ran into a friend from church who knew that we worked with internationals at that time. She said that she knew of a sad situation - a high school student from Spain, a foreign exchange student actually,who had been living with an American host family in another state when he was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor. His host father flew with the boy to Children's Hospital but then the American "father" had to fly back home. The teen's parents were in route from Spain but wouldn't be able to get here until Christmas day. To make matters worse, in Spain Christmas Eve is the big holiday - much more important than Christmas Day. So my friend was wondering if I knew of someone who spoke Spanish and who wouldn't mind visiting this teen that day.
We both knew it would be a long-shot to find a Spanish-speaking person who could drop everything and make a run to the hospital. The only person I could think of was our sweet friend from Honduras, Jenny, and thankfully, she was able to re-arrange things so that she could go.
I picked her up that afternoon and we went to Children's to meet a young man we'd never seen before at a time when both of us had schedules that were maxed to the nth degree. We were nervous but when we entered his room, Jenny was great. She has a sweet voice and she just started speaking Spanish to him as if she'd known him all her life. When she finished greeting him and explaining who we were, he responded calmly, "Actually, I speak English if you prefer." (Later, when we were leaving the hospital, Jenny said, "Cathy, his English is better than mine!" I told her, "Don't worry, his English is better than mine too!" And it was! He had no trace of an accent and used British English! :)
I'm sure the teen was frightened - at least I would have been: in a foreign country, awaiting an uncertain diagnosis, with no family nearby. But he didn't show it and over the next month while he underwent surgery and treatment, he still remained calm and basically did most of the translating between his mother and the doctors, since his mom spoke almost no English.
I don't know if we helped the young man that day with our impromptu visit. But I think we both sensed the presence of the Lord in that sterile little room and later, we enjoyed getting to know the family - they were super sweet people who did extremely well under trying circumstances.
I guess I've said all that to say this: somehow, the briskets, the turkey, and the ham all got done in time for our meal the next day, although there were moments when I thought I was crazy to be running by the hospital on Christmas Eve to see a total stranger with so much yet to do! And times when I didn't think but knew that I was totally insane to leave the house at 10:00 pm to get to a Christmas Eve service while the house was still a wreck and tons of company were coming the next day! Yet, everything came off as planned: lunch happened... The food was good... We had wall-to-wall people and the house resounded with laughter:) (If you've ever had internationals in your house, you know what I mean..) Plus, it was the only Christmas where we ever celebrated after lunch by doing the limbo (the Mabelvale version:) - something I couldn't do now if my life depended on it, trust me!
Truly Jesus is with us in the celebrations of life!
And just as truly He was with us at Children's Hospital the day before.
Jesus said, "If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also." (Jn.12:26). From what I've read in the Bible, Jesus went to weddings and funerals, hung out with the well and the sick, and basically just did life while showing us the Father's love. If you want to really experience the joy of Christmas, simply ask Him how He wants you to celebrate His birthday this year. You may be amazed but you won't be sorry.