Keeping Christmas Simple – A Gift From The Heart

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” And so begins the famous novel A Tale of Two Cities, written by Charles Dickens in 1859. The novel is full of contrasts and an eclectic range of personalities, all set during the French Revolution.

These same lines might describe the frenetic experiences we encounter every holiday season. It is Christmas time again. For many of us it is also a time when the entire world seems to accelerate. We dash from work to our cars and we are off: to the crowded stores, to celebrations, to churches, to our relatives’ houses and the list goes on and on. Many of us squeeze in the time to give to a family in need, or we purchase a gift for a child from a gift tree at our church.

There are others of us that feel isolated, remembering a time when we were more connected to our family in seasons past, or remembering a marriage that did not turn out well. There are those that wish for more and feel as if Christmas is just a reminder of our lack of wealth.

To bridge this gap in our viewpoints of Christmas, I would like to share with you a lesson that I learned this November, as I participated in my first mission experience with 26 members from my own church, Impact Church. Let me try to paint you a picture of what we found when we travelled to a small village named Cristo Rey (there is no sign), a few miles outside of the city of Tipitapa, Nicaragua.

The village lies at the end of a road that winds through a dump generated by the bigger city. The refuse is always burning, presumably in an attempt to limit its size. At the same time, it is constantly being picked over by the local villagers, who are hoping to find something to use or to sell. There are scores of black vultures atop the refuse piles, and they stare at us as we pass by on the muddy clay road, breathing in the black sooty vapors.

There is only a dribble of water available from scattered hose bibs for the 1,200 families who live here. There is almost no food, and the people wait for missionaries to feed them. Electricity is sporadically available, although there are only a few lights to plug in. The power lines look like telephone wires, bare in many spots, and are propped up by long sticks and tree branches. Few of the children have any shoes at all, but they still help us as we build small houses and hand out food to the families.

These people have very little, and they would gladly change places with the poorest among us. But there is one thing that they do have that we do not, and it shows in the faces of the children.

Every child carries a huge beautiful smile on his or her face. It is with them as they run to hug us and talk with us. It is with them as they help us work. They are an absolute pleasure to be around at all times, and I could not help but find tears in my eyes at the most unusual moments.

I believe that this ability to be so friendly and loving in the face of complete material destitution is a matter of simplicity and peace. There is no news media, which leaves the people unaware of the world’s troubles, so that there is much less to fear. There is no stirring of racial or religious discontent. There is almost no disharmony. The only strangers that they ever see are missionaries: men and women who are dedicated to showing the love of Jesus by helping, by loving and by sharing.

The gift I received from these people was the gift of simplicity. If we keep it simple, we will smile through our holiday season, and the whole blessed event may be “the best of times.” Christmas is all about Cristo Rey, “Christ the King.” I wish to all of you a simple season, full of smiles, like the beautiful grins worn on the faces of the children of Cristo Rey. As they say in this small village in Nicaragua, “Que Dios te bendiga” – God bless you… everyone.

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