Christmas: 5 Days and Counting - Do They Know It's Christmas?

More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, by Jeff Shinabarger, is a book that I'm currently reading. It's quite appropriate for this season of year, what with giving being the theme and all. In the book, Jeff is challenging the reader to consider the fact that truthfully, we all have enough. Of everything. Food, clothes, shoes, toys, stuff. And if you were to stop and really think about it, having so much stuff can create stress, an organizational challenge, and feelings like we've reached the saturation point. It's easy when it becomes a burden to say that enough is enough. But when you're heading to the mall or your favorite store, or searching for that new pair of shoes, admitting that enough is enough doesn't even come close to being on your radar. 


One of the stories Jeff tells in the book is the challenge he had after Christmas one year. In January when the credit card bill came, they didn't have the money to pay off what they spent for gifts. So, they had to come up with a plan. After discussing it, they decided to not buy any food for a month, to use what was already in their kitchen cabinets and pantry. To their surprise, after digging deep into the freezer for weeks and coming up with Lean Cuisine dinners they didn't know they had, or into the cabinets and finding brownie and cake mix, (when you're hungry, food is food) they lasted for 7 weeks without buying anything. Except maybe a gallon of milk. They called it a necessity. So, in his mind, the lesson is, they had 147 excess meals in their home, without even knowing it. I'm guessing we have even more since I tend to stock up when the price is right. But, bottom line, it's excess. It's more than I need right now. And each of us has to decide where that line of excess rests in front of us.

The song I chose for today, is called Do They Know it's Christmas? I found it by accident. I had never heard it before. It was written by Bob Geldof, sung by a group of musicians like Bono, Sting, Boy George, and they called their group Band Aid. They wanted to do something to contribute to the solution for hunger in Africa. That was in 1984. The video will be amusing to some, because these guys are so young. Most of them were in their 20's, all successful artists, who were motivated to do good for the people of Africa. The song starts with the reassurance that there's a mission to Christmas, letting in light, banishing shade, spreading joy. Throwing your arms around the world. I love this line. It's such a visual for what God did in sending Jesus to this earth. It was as if He said, I love you this much to give you this gift, let me embrace you. 

The song goes on to reflect the pain that many feel around the world and how there's fear in the hearts of people, how the most they'll get for Christmas is more of the same. Same life, same  negative environment, same arid, drought stricken land, same heart ache and pain and tears. Their life isn't going to get better. Unless we get involved. The song encourages the listener to pray for them, to think about them during these days, just give a little help to the helpless. In other words, consider our abundance and our excess and be willing to share with those who have nothing and with those whose life has no chance of change. We're not to feel sorry for them, just empathy. Throw our arms around those less fortunate. Throw our arms around the world. 


Then once their needs are met, and people genuinely feel cared for and loved,  consider whether or not they know it's Christmas, what does that mean, what's the significance for their life. After all, what would we be wondering about and wishing for as we go to bed at night? Or are you too cold to have thoughts or dreams? Are you too hungry to care, and the only thing you can do is sleep? Or would you lay away and wonder what will happen to your children, who don't have anymore food or clothing or warmth than you do?  Our excess has removed us so far from this reality. Unless we come face to face with those in need, we forget there are people, just like us, who have needs. The song has one controversial line, "Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Perhaps we should be just thanking God for what we have, for our excess, and for those in need so we may practice love, kindness and live Christmas every day. Our health makes us capable, our resources make it possible and our desire makes it acceptable to God. He did say that whoever you do goodness and kindness to in this life, it's as if we've done it to Him. 

If you look, there is need closer than Africa. There's hunger, darkness, hopelessness closer than you could ever imagine. Sharing our excess doesn't have to mean packing it in a box and shipping it to a third world country. It may mean discovering right in your own community a place that gives help to those in need and making your contribution local. Steve Sjogren teaches us to notice people, show God's love in practical ways, and he teaches that small things done with great love will change the world. It's not necessary to feed the masses. Just feed one. It's not mandatory to supply all the needs of an under resourced individual. Just provide what God lays on your heart to give. Out of your excess, others can be raised up, lifted up, given hope, happiness and joy for the future. They can feel connectedness and community because you extend a hand. It's not always just about teaching someone to fish so they can provide for themselves for the rest of their life. Sometimes they just need a fish right now. For without it, there might not be any rest of their life. 

There's so much depth and meaning to Christmas, but it usually boils down to the same thing, love your neighbor, the poor, the fatherless, the homeless, the widow, the incarcerated, the hurting, the dying, the lonely, the forgotten. As yourself. Wrap your arms around the world. And if not the world, just one. They need to know it's Christmas.



Do They Know It's Christmas?

It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time
But say a prayer, Pray for the other ones
At Christmas time it's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?
Here's to you
Raise a glass for everyone
Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived
If the table was turned would you survive
Here's to them
Underneath that burning sun
You ain't gotta feel guilt just selfless
Give a little help to the helpless
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again -
Feed the world
Feed the world