I have been thinking a lot this holiday season about how to keep focused on the real purpose of Christmas: Jesus. I can so easily get caught up in the Christmas shopping, parties, decorating, and cards that I forget to stop and reflect on why I am celebrating this holiday in the first place. So that being said, I have been looking for books and articles to help my mind refocus on the true meaning of Christmas. A few days ago, I picked up a book, Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright, that was sitting on our bookshelf. I have no idea where it came from (If you gave it to me, thanks!) but it looked like a great short read with an inspirational message. That proved to be true; I read it in one day! I actually couldn’t put it down. It is a wonderful fictional story about a woman who is a reporter and is trying to investigate the origin behind jars given out on Christmas Eve to people in need. I won’t ruin the story for you because it really is a delightful read but here is an excerpt of an article the reporter wrote in the newspaper that encompasses a bit of the message.
“…During that shuffling in and out of my apartment that memorable night, an anonymous angel left a jar filled with coins and a few 20-dollar bills. On it was inscribed: “The Christmas Jar.” I found no name and no explanation…Over the ensuing days I became obsessed with knowing who had been so kind to me and why…
Though I cannot know how many have been similarly affected by the Christmas Jar tradition, I sense the number is impressive. I suspect many of you today will take jars you’ve kept tucked away in your homes and deliver them to someone in need. Those needs will vary from social to emotional and of course, to financial.
The decision about whom to bless will be made in private ways and in private places. Some will gather around kitchen tables later this morning; others will kneel in prayer on soft living room rugs. Some will not decide until the car seemingly stops itself beside some lonely wanderer.
In the days that come, neither givers nor receivers will discuss their experiences beyond the walls of their homes. But by the week’s end, and without much fanfare, someone will wash a new jar, cleaning it until it sparkles and reflects his or her kind countenance. Then with caring hands this person will wipe it dry and place it in its familiar spot.
That night, one by one, family members will empty their pockets and delight at the clink of change hitting the empty glass bottom. Most days will yield a quarter, a dime, perhaps two nickels and a stray penny…
Over the months that follow, the gathering change will leave no recognizable void. Occasionally the temptation to borrow for laundry, a movie, or the ice-cream truck will float through the house, over the jar, and out the back door. But it never lands. The money is spoken for.
Over the course of twelve months these jars will fill slowly but with purpose. Every day, if only for an instant, the benefactor will consider Christmas. For most, including this reporter, there will be a sweet daily reminder of what this day we call Christmas means. Most will pause, if only for an instant, to consider the miracle of a perfect boy born in a manger under the brilliant star that predicted it all” (pgs 103-105).
May we pause and listen beyond the hustle and bustle for the ways that God is prompting us to give back to others this Christmas season.