“’I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink’…Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:35, 37, 40
I wanted to write a Christmas column, but it wasn’t coming easy. Movies and books kept coming to mind, quite randomly, really. I guess I was tired.
First to enter my mind was George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” God, I love that guy, who said of his father: “He didn’t save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that?”
While it was a perfect jab at that old Scrooge Mr. Potter, who certainly deserved it, more than he was being mean, George was paying homage to his father. whose generosity reached well beyond the walls of his home. He very well could have been talking about my father, except that while Dad touched the lives of so many beyond our home, and still does, he managed to help us through college, too, bless his heart.
Then, for some reason, I thought about Richard Bach, whose “Illusions” changed my life when I was 16. Bach wrote: “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” What’s that got to do with Christmas? Not a thing, I suppose, except that “Illusions” is my other bible and it’s about a Messiah, albeit a reluctant one.
And I thought about Edmund Burke. I don’t really know who in the heck Edmund Burke was, except that he said or write: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That’s my mantra, doggonnit. Perhaps the only connection to Christmas in what Burke said, however, is that there’s gotta be a “What Would Jesus Do?” built in there, somewhere.
OK, focus. Christmas, Kevin.
“Children! Of course! Christmas is about children!” I realized.
So I started thinking about children. Not so much my own – not this time, anyway. But those without smiles. Those who aren’t loved – or at least who don’t know that they are loved. Those without hope.
The least of us, no doubt.
What is the real meaning of Christmas? Look no further than your friend, or neighbor, or family member – or maybe it’s you! — who has sacrificed everything they have to change the hearts and lives of otherwise unloved children.
There are four children in my life – Ronni, Kyle, Brady and Natalie – who were adopted in the 1990s by a young professional couple. The first two were born stateside; the others were orphans in Russia.
I can only imagine – 16, 13 and 11 years later – what those children’s (soon to be young adults!) lives would be like today. I’ve never thought of it like this before, but people who adopt children and love those children unconditionally are world-changers. They are the people Edmund Burke, whoever he was, encourages us to be. They are my heroes. And to be sure, George Bailey has nothing on them.
To Lance and Beth, and all of the other adoptive parents out there , this Christmas toast is for you, as yours is the Greatest Gift.
God has blessed you and, thank goodness, the children whose lives you have changed.
By Kevin Hogencamp