by Dale Reeves
Have you heard the recent news that the tomb of the original Saint Nicholas—the man who inspired our “Santa Claus”—has reportedly been discovered underneath an ancient church in Turkey? The tiling of the floor of the Byzantine church was unearthed, and archeologists discovered the tomb roughly five feet under slabs of marble. Evidently it had shifted quite a bit due to an earthquake. More than 1,600 years ago, St. Nicholas was the Bishop in sixth-century Myra, now Turkey. He was famous for anonymously giving gifts to people, stuffing coins into peoples’ socks, and living a life of generosity.
We know that God calls us to always be cheerful givers and be generous with the blessings he has brought our way. But, as the weather gets cooler and we turn our thoughts toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, the appeals to be generous come at us from all directions, don’t they? Why is that? According to nonprofitssource.com, 30% of annual giving to charities and nonprofits occurs in the month of December. “Giving at year-end is cultural. The holiday season makes people more likely to give and so do the tax benefits of giving before the end of the calendar year.”
There are many worthwhile opportunities to be generous, but one that I think is unique came to me in an email from one of my favorite restaurants, Mission BBQ. I love how this franchise honors all members of the armed services, police, fire and first responders. Every day at noon, everyone in the restaurant stands and sings our National Anthem. This year they want to make a difference for heroes who are living away from home while they are serving our country. Many of them will not be home to celebrate the holidays with their families. So, Mission BBQ is asking for people to write cards of thanks and encouragement. They invite us to write “Dear Hero” personalized messages in each card, and bring them in unsealed envelopes to their restaurant by November 22. The restaurant will get the cards distributed to uniformed American heroes.
Like me, you probably are swamped with requests this time of year from not only our church, but nonprofit organizations, foreign missions, and personal requests through mass emails, texts, Christian radio, snail mail, and phone calls. You may even feel guilty that you can’t give something to each deserving recipient. It happens to me every year. As I throw away some of the mail that I receive, I may read their request quickly, then discard it in the trash. And, sometimes there is a twinge of guilt I feel when doing so. Why? Because deep down I think we all want to be a blessing to others—especially when it is brought to us front and center during this time of year.
Hands and Feet of Compassion
In my sermon at Christ’s Church last Sunday on the healing of the leper by Jesus (Matthew 8; Mark 1; Luke 5), I talked about Jesus’ compassion for people in need. Several times in the Gospels, the writers use the Greek word splagxnizomai, which referred to the “inward parts,” the entrails in our body such as the heart, liver, and kidney. Jesus felt compassion for others from the depths of his body, he yearned for people from the seat of his affections, his inner being. This word is used in Matthew 9:35, 36, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (NIV, emphasis mine).
God calls us to not just simply respond to appeal letters and pleas out of guilt or manipulation during the holiday season, but to emulate the compassionate nature of Christ. I love this time of year for several reasons, and one of the biggest reasons is the way in which our church body comes together during this season to celebrate together, give together, and serve together. This year has been no exception as our preschool and church brought in 404 filled shoeboxes to support Samaritan’s Purse in their global outreach, “Operation Christmas Child.” These gift boxes are sent to the ends of the earth to bring great joy to children in need and to share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our “Feast for Friends” generosity initiative helps provide a holiday meal to deserving families in our community who find it hard to make ends meet. Without your help, these families may not have a Thanksgiving meal. This year forty Thanksgiving meal baskets were assembled, helping to feed over two hundred people. Thank you to all who shopped for food, put the meals together, delivered them, and wrote cards of encouragement that were given to the families during the meal delivery.
As Christmas Day draws near, we will stock the shelves of our Little Angels Shoppe with the help of our Christ’s Church community. This generosity initiative serves parents in need who will get to pick out new toys and clothes for their children. It’s not too late to get involved with this annual outreach of our church. We will serve with compassion approximately 100 families and 400 children, tangibly demonstrating God’s love and joy to those families who walk in our doors seeking a lending hand. You can still help by clicking here. You can either pick up gift tag requests at our church or use our hassle-free Amazon wish list. Shopping day for families this year is set for Saturday, December 10. That day you can serve as a door greeter, a gift wrapper, a shopper to assist parents, and more. We’d love for you to jump in on this fun!
In a season that for many people can be stressful and difficult to navigate alone, we have the opportunity to come alongside many people in our community and world through these initiatives. As we get to express God’s love in some practical ways, we are his hands and feet of compassion. Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV).