The Gift of Hope
I have another guest post this week by Sandy Scarboro. Sandy is also a contributor to Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families. She is mother to Miles and Grace, and a retired English teacher turned writer. Thank you, Sandy, for your thoughtful and relevant post on Christmas. We all need Hope!
Why do we Love Christmas?
People love Christmas–for Christians, it is the ultimate gift of Hope.
We all notice how it seems to come a bit earlier each year. The White House turkey pardon and the arrival ceremony of the grand presidential Christmas tree happened on the same day this year.
According to www.statista.com, the average American spends almost a thousand dollars on Christmas expenses. They report most shoppers begin hunting for the perfect gift in October. This site also claims 85% of Americans plan to celebrate Christmas and these merrymakers include “an increasing number of non-Christians”.
Some radio stations play Christmas tunes soon after Thanksgiving. Christmas decorations and parades are everywhere. And let’s not forget the Hallmark channel’s stocking full of sugarplum-sweet movies of love and really good hair. Finding love during the season of carols and mistletoe is even more thrilling than usual.
Why do we love Christmas time so much? Oh, let me count the ways. Presents. Who doesn’t love receiving a surprise, bought with love and wrapped in colorful paper topped with a bow? We love the food and the chance to overeat with others and for it to be okay. Because today is Christmas. Christmas grants everyone a respite from work or school. We get to use this time off to travel and see our family. The season offers us a fun intermission into our mundane lives.
Christmas Expectations and the Gift of Hope
I believe another reason the Yuletide season is so loved is that there is an underlying feeling of hope. If I decorate every room in the house, we’ll have a grand Christmas. We put our aspirations in gifts, ones given, and ones received. The diamond necklace will make my wife love me more. If I get a blender, I’ll make smoothies every day and lose weight. This party will be the best one I’ve given, and people will talk about it for years. If I attend my boss’s party, I may meet someone who can help me in my career. When I march in the parade, my picture will be all over social media. I just know my boyfriend will propose and give me a ring.
Every year Christmas comes and goes, leaving our bank accounts slimmer, our waistlines bigger and our homes overstuffed with stuff. The Christmas blues have come to town. We’ve spent months planning for the special day and now it’s over. In a 2015 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “64% of people report experiencing the post-holiday blues.” I feel it’s even higher in today’s post- covid, politically divided world.
The Gift of Hope at Christmas
The hope and joy of Christmas are real, but it doesn’t come in a gift bag. Christmas is a birthday, and we should celebrate it by singing, having parties, and presents. It is the birthday of hope. God sent his son Jesus, the ultimate gift, to live and die as a man. Jesus’s death paved the road for our eternal life. You can’t buy that at Walmart. This is where our hope lies, not in the painful, difficult life on earth, but in the anticipation of heaven.
Before retiring from teaching, I spent several years teaching fifth grade in a Christian school. We were doing a unit about heaven as a new girl enrolled in my class. Unlike most of the other students who had grown up in the church, it soon became apparent this girl had almost no knowledge of God, the Bible, and Jesus. For example, I asked the class to turn to John 14:2. She raised her hand and asked, “What page is that on?”. The other students gasped. Yes, a gasp of sheer unbelief.
A few days later, we were continuing our study of heaven. I noticed she was exceptionally quiet. I discussed biblical descriptions of heaven. She jumped out of her seat and said, “I want to go to heaven. How do I get there?” I spoke to her about confessing your sins and believing in Jesus. She later spoke to the pastor as well. It was pure, childlike faith combined with hope.
Two years ago, God gave me the chance to experience Christmas in a very different way. I was suffering from diverticulitis (infection in the colon). I had surgery and stayed in the hospital for three weeks. Between the infection, lack of food, and recovery from the surgery, I felt awful. Surely, I’d be out in time for Christmas. But every day the doctors would say, “a few more days”. It was during COVID, so no visitors could come. It was not a holly, jolly time.
I learned a lot about selfless love during that hospital stay. My older sister had organized my friends and family into what my father would call a platoon ready for battle. It’s her superpower. I’m divorced and my daughter, seventeen, still lived at home. My son, Miles, was home from college for his Christmas break. Why did I need a fighting platoon? My daughter, Grace, is autistic and needs constant supervision. Between my family and Grace’s regular staff workers, the days were covered, however, we needed someone to stay with her at night. Miles stepped up to the task. Most evenings were uneventful. My mom would bring over food for supper. Miles would give Grace her medication, spend some time with her, brush her teeth, and tuck her in at night. He only complained once. A few days before they released me Miles called my hospital room. “Hey, mom. I hope you’re feeling better and I’m not rushing you, but when do you think you might come home?”
Love and Kindness at Christmas
He seemed relieved when I told him only another day or two. I asked how things were going. He said everything was going smoothly. But apparently the night before, Grace had an issue with going to the toilet. Her stomach was upset and afterward, Miles said our bathroom looked like a crime scene. He was the only one there to clean it up. And he did.
A less foul-smelling memory occurred a few days earlier. I was so tired of the hospital and missing all my people. I turned on the camera in Grace’s room just in time to catch Miles tucking her in. He read her a book, said prayers with her, and covered her with her favorite blanket. It was such a touching moment.
The nurses in the hospital also showed me compassion and brought as much cheer to my room as they could. I understand they were doing their job, but several of them did more than they had to and did it with such a loving spirit. One young nurse stands out in my mind. After weeks of lying down, your hair gets matted. She helped me get a bath, washed my hair, and then braided it into a French braid. Yes, it looked better, but I felt like a new person. Other nurses told me about their Christmas plans and about the world outside the hospital. They made me laugh. Some even prayed with me.
My church family also came together. They started a meal chain, which lasted for weeks. Even when I wasn’t home or still could not eat, the food was manna from heaven. Miles, my mother, Grace, and the caregivers had wonderful meals. Made with love.
Christmas is all about selfless love and hope. This year, as you prepare to celebrate the birthday of the King, our gift of hope, remember to share that love and kindness with someone who isn’t expecting it and maybe doesn’t deserve it. God did.
Sandy Scarboro is the mother of two extraordinary people. She retired after twenty-eight years of teaching English to middle schoolers. Retirement has given her time to devote to writing. She’s contributed articles to the newspaper and local magazines. Sandy self-published a Christian romance, “Cotton Candy Sky” and a Bible devotional for teen girls called, “Two are Better Than One”. She is currently working on another Christian romance entitled “Waiting for the Sunset” and a women’s devotional called “Life Lessons “. Sandy enjoys walking and exploring local, historical places. Sandy is a member of Serious Writer and she’s currently looking for a new group of aspiring authors to create a new writing group.