Beyond the Baby
By Lanita Bradley Boyd
Downtown in last winter’s bitter weather, my friend Casey was walking behind two apparently homeless men. They hunched over, pulling their thin coats around them against the wind. As they shuffled along, they took turns reaching into their shared brown paper sack to break off pieces of bread, munching hungrily.
Approaching them, she saw two preppy-looking boys, probably in their late teens, talking and looking at the men. She held her breath. Would they be rude to these poor men? she wondered.
But as the two pairs came even with each other, the boys took off their long, warm, knitted scarves and wrapped them around the necks of the shivering men.
Touched to tears, Casey stopped, savoring the moment. But the best was yet to come. Eagerly, the men offered their bread to the boys, wanting to share even the little they had. The boys thanked them warmly but took none of their bread.
As Casey met the boys and smiled broadly at them, she was struck by the glow in their eyes. She could see that they had received more than they had given.
A crowded closet
I thought of all the warm scarves that are in my closet. When I get dressed to go out, I choose the one that looks best with my coat selection for the day. I choose which pair of gloves to wear. I leave behind scarves and gloves that could be warming others.
Every day God offers us opportunities such as the one those boys took. As I hurry from store to store, buying special items for my husband, children, and other loved ones, I often think, “I am being too extravagant. Perhaps this year I should cut back.” But then I see that jacket that my granddaughter would just love, or the toy that my grandson would adore, and I’ve again succumbed to excessive spending. Oh, I may be able to pay for these items, but should I?
It’s a hard part of being a Christian in the United States. The term “conspicuous consumption” keeps scrolling through my head. But over the years, I’ve established habits that my family might be disappointed to see changed. Or maybe not. They may have more depth than I think.
Last year I stuffed their stockings with inexpensive fruit, candy bars, and Dollar Tree buys. But I also tucked in a picture of the goat I’d given to a family in Ecuador, or the chickens for a Honduran family, or the blankets for an Eastern European family—given through me on behalf of my family members. As each picture was pulled from the stocking and read aloud, there was a brief silence. For a moment, we refocused and thought about what was really important in our giving.
What is that in your hand?
So for this Christmas season and following, I want to be more aware of guidance by the Holy Spirit. I want to notice the poor around me, not avert my eyes as I pass. I want to judge less and give more. I don’t know their circumstances—but I know mine are better than theirs.
I think of Moses, who was directly instructed by God, and yet asked, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”1 Of course it was the staff that Moses would use during his appearances before Pharaoh and throughout the Sinai desert. I must remember that he also says to me, “What is that in your hand?” regarding the ordinary, everyday parts of my life.
What do I have in my hand right now that I can share? Maybe I can always keep an extra pair of gloves in my purse or pocket. Maybe I can go shopping downtown in hopes that I’ll be able to give away my scarf or gloves before I return to my warm, attractively decorated home.
I want to go beyond honoring the baby in the manger to imitating the man who lived and walked and helped everyone he met. Every day, I want to remember that he said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”2 And “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.3
May we bless and be blessed during the Christmas season and throughout the coming year. May we actually experience what we see and hear constantly at this time of year, “…goodwill toward men.”4
1 Exodus 4:1-2 (TNIV)
2 Luke 6:37 (TNIV)
3 Matthew 25:40 (TNIV)
4 Luke 2:14 (NKJV)
Lanita Bradley Boyd is a free-lance writer who lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. She and her husband Steve presently work with the Central Church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio. She can be reached at 859-441-4999 or at Lanita@lanitaboyd.com .