As we approach Christmas, I’m reminded once again about the contrast between the modern Christmas celebration and the reason Christ came that first Christmas. He did not come in splendor as royalty but was born in obscurity to a humble family in less than servant quarters. There were no Christmas present lists or baby showers to herald the Christ child’s arrival. Christ came as he lived—He came for us! He came to serve.
In the earliest Christian Gospel of Mark, John Mark, a companion with Paul on his missionary journey, provides a centering perspective for Christians at Christmas (10:43-45): “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
My father has often shared memories of the Great Depression. He talked about his father’s frantic efforts to make mortgage payments on the family farm. The crops were bad, and the price the crops brought even worse. My dad’s older brothers were hired out to richer farmers. They received room and board and a small monthly payment that had to be sent home to help pay the family mortgage. A depression Christmas meant that you received a special orange and nothing else. The Christmas dad remembered most was a Christmas without even an orange. His devout parents told the family that there would be no presents that year; a poor family had moved into town and needed community support. Christ came through believers into that depression Christmas—“I’m not here to be served, but to serve.”
Last year, Ventura County Star reporter, Adam Foxman, covered Janice Jaynes Christensen’s Christmas Day open house. With the recent loss of both their son and a nephew, Janice and her husband, Fred, could have easily turned their home into a place of Christmas mourning. Instead, inspired by their other son's missionary work in South Africa, Janice chose to make their home a haven of holiday cheer by inviting strangers to share a home-cooked Italian meal.
At noon on Christmas Day, along with a few relatives and friends, their home filled up with strangers who had read about the open celebration in the Star. The strangers included people looking for some company on Christmas and others who were so touched by the hosts' gesture that they wanted to help.