A Dallas man worked with several area foundations to fill an eighteen-wheeler with toys for a thousand needy children.
Gregory Hudson says most of the toys were bought with his own money. His motivation was simple: he struggled as a child and wanted to help those who are where he was. “When you get up, make sure you go back and take care of your people,” he said.
In other news, a mother says her six-year-old met “the real Santa” last week at a sporting goods store in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Matthew Foster is blind and has autism. His mother, Misty Wolf, told reporters that he’s very interested in Santa. So, she brought him to a store early to avoid the crowds and hoped for the best.
Their visit was better than she could have imagined.
When Wolf explained Matthew’s condition, Santa raised his hand and said, “Say no more.” She later told reporters that “he knew exactly what to do.”
He walked over and knelt next to Matthew and invited him to touch his coat, its buttons, and his hat while he explained what Matthew was feeling. He got on the floor so Matthew would be more comfortable, then carried him to a taxidermied animal in the display to touch its antlers. Santa even let Matthew pull on his white beard.
“It was pretty magical,” his mother said.
Christmas through the eyes of a child
We could focus on discouraging news this morning: an eight-year-old boy died in US Border Patrol custody; the Indonesian tsunami death toll has climbed above four hundred; and a police officer was killed by a driver with “multiple prescription drugs” in his system. The officer was conducting a traffic stop at the time.
There’s always bad news in the news. However, I’d rather shift our attention elsewhere today.
Our two sons and their families were with Janet and me for Christmas. We have a nearly five-year-old granddaughter and three grandsons–two are two years old and one is three weeks old. Needless to say, our home was filled with noise, chaos, laughter, and much joy.
Our granddaughter is a wonderful age for Christmas. At her request, we baked cookies to leave by the fireplace with milk for Santa. She wrote him a note to welcome him to our home.
When she got up on Christmas morning, she was excited to see that he had eaten her cookies and left her some special presents.
For her, Christmas is a day of mystery and hope–an unseen benefactor visits our homes to give us what he knows is best for us. He is to be welcomed with anticipation and honored with gratitude.
“God manifest in the flesh”
My granddaughter understands well the meaning of Advent (Latin for “arrival”). We typically focus during the Advent season on Jesus’ first arrival as a baby in Bethlehem. However, the Christian church has traditionally focused during this season on Jesus’ second arrival as well.
Just as my granddaughter prepared for Christmas, we are to prepare for Christ to return. She was certain that Santa would come to our home on Christmas Eve. We should be just as certain that Jesus will come back to our planet one day, perhaps today.
As we wait, there are hurting people who need our help just as much today as they did yesterday. Gregory Hudson’s story is our invitation to serve those who cannot serve themselves. The man who made Santa Claus real to an autistic boy is our model for incarnating Christ to our Christless culture.
The Child who was born in Bethlehem has made us his Bethlehem today. His Spirit lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). As Oswald Chambers notes in his Christmas Day devotional, “The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me. Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.”
Chambers concludes: “God manifest in the flesh–that is what was made profoundly possible for you and me by the Redemption.” Now Jesus wants “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) through us.
“Well done, good and faithful servant”
As we live between the First Advent and the Second, let’s do all we can to be ready for our Lord’s return. This imperative is relevant to our personal lives, of course. We want to live every day as though it is our last because one day we’ll be right.
But it’s also relevant to our public lives and influence.
Jesus’ commendation at the end of time–“Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)–will be his reward for holistic stewardship. The obedient servant maximizes his or her resources in ways that help those in need as if they were Jesus himself (Matthew 25:40).
Our planet and its inhabitants are the creation and possession of our returning Lord (Colossians 1:16). When he comes back, he will want to find us faithful in managing what he has entrusted to us.
Every person we know is someone for whom Jesus was born to die. Every need we meet is an extension of his earthly ministry. Every soul we bring to him is someone who will be eternally grateful for our witness and love.
When we celebrate the First Advent by preparing for the Second, Jesus becomes as real in us as he was in Bethlehem. His earthly ministry continues through ours.
And every day is Christmas.