In 16 days we get to celebrate the coming of Jesus, God incarnated in the flesh, into our physical world as a man. Growing up, Christmas was an exciting time in my family. My parents went all out for my sister and I every year. We got stockings stuffed to the brim, we got our custom Christmas plates (painted with our names by our Mom Mom Allen) filled with cookies and candy, on Christmas Eve we opened our gifts from relatives and family members, except for the gifts my sister and I had bought each other. Those were saved until morning, when we would usually wake up really early to sit shivering by the magical glow of the Christmas tree lights while opening our stockings, eating the snacks off our Christmas plates that Santa had filled up, and staring with wonder at the new appearance of Santa gifts that seemed to magically appear overnight, wrapped in our own special wrapping paper. Some years, there were even scavenger hunts to find all the pieces of a big gift, like when I got my first set of golf clubs. And even leading up to Christmas my mom would use a little Christmas mailbox sometimes to leave notes leading us to a hidden gift somewhere.
When I got older, though, the meaning of Christmas changed. Right before Christmas of 2013, I had gone through my darkest season, where I lost complete hope of ever being happy again. In that “death” I felt God catch me, yell that He was not done with me in a huge, infinitely compassionate voice, then I surrendered my life wholeheartedly back to Him, and then began an intense resurrection over the next couple of years bringing me to where I am today.
As Christmas came closer that year, an observation came to me that has stuck with me ever since. One Sunday before a service at Denver Community Church, I was in the usual prayer circle with all the staff and volunteers. I wasn’t usual for me to pray out loud in that large of a group. But that day, after the intense reality of what I had just experienced, I felt overcome by the words that came to me and decided to take that moment to express them. The words that came were something close to, “I think there’s a reason You chose to come to the world in the darkest, coldest time of the year. You knew that’s when we would need You most in our lives, and it’s a reminder that You will meet us there every time.” I felt a powerful weight to my words and after we ended, the pastor, Michael Hidalgo, said simply, but sincerely, that he had liked my words. Honestly, that affirmation is probably one of the reasons I feel encouraged enough to write this blog.
So, for me, Christmas is now a symbol of God’s willingness to meet us even in the darkest, coldest places (what better, more hopeful news than that??). In that vein, today the church I attend, Flatirons Community Church, let us know that they are partnering with God Behind Bars raise money to buy Christmas presents for kids with an incarcerated parent. We are also setting up two permanent services that meet inside prison walls while the sermons are live streamed to their families at home at the same time. It is so unreal that I am part of a church so willing to go directly into the darkest places to break through (quite literally in this case) the shackles of shame, pain and fear, with the redemptive power of the Gospel. I think the greatest gift you can give someone is to show them they are worth something, whatever they’ve done and no matter what they think of they’re worth. The greatest gift for me, as well, is when I get to do that for someone. There’s not much else that gives me that amount of joy.
So, if you feel moved to give and recieve this gift, follow the link to Flatirons Church home page and click ‘donate.’ If you’d like more info on God Behind Bars, follow the link below that one to their home page. I hope and pray that you do, and please share with as many people as you feel moved to as well. Thank you and Merry Christmas!