This year, I spent Christmas with my family. Two years ago I went to Gulfport for Thanksgiving and celebrated Christmas at the same time. That was also the first time I got to meet my brother Chris, and his wife Michelle. All of us were there this year, and we gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents, ate roast turkey and a deep-fried caijun turkey. You can check out my flickr pictures for more of that.
The caijun turkey was certainly a highlight, as well as some fresh gulf shrimp at a local joint earlier in the week. There! Now that I’ve mentioned food, I can go on to the truly important part of this post.
On Christmas eve, we toured the communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and later attended a candlelight service at church in Gulfport, close to the beach, but was miraculously spared. It’s been a while since I have been in a church as traditional as this with pews and stained glass, a very different experience from CentrePointe. The pastor was as casual as could be despite the long robe and sash of his office. He reminded me of the Menards guy with a deep drawl. He talked about angels. He of course mentioned the famous ones who appeared at the first Christmas, but he also talked about some other that had effected the people in this church directly.
The CEO of the Weaver popcorn company had contacted the pastor about making a donation to the church to help with hurricane relief in the local community, and that it would probably be about $4,000. During their correspondence, the pastor mentioned that someone had once donated an old popcorn machine to the church. He told the CEO that after people in the church had treated it like their own, cleaning it, and as the pastor said, “loving on it,” it made some great popcorn. Well the CEO wrote back and after finding out more about the machine, sent along a gift of 75 lbs of popcorn and oil for the popper in easy to use envelopes. This was nice, since the church hadn’t been able to make any popcorn lately and it would be much appreciated. Some time passed and the CEO wrote back with a bad-news/good-news story. The workers had taken up their Christmas charity collection and it had not come to the $4,000 the CEO mentioned. Instead it was going to be more like $10,000. The workers at the Weaver popcorn company had taken in this little church as their own. Rather than give to a faceless charity like the red cross, the CEO and the workers connected with the people who needed their help and they stepped up. The money arrived with personal cards and letters from the workers to the church. They are building a relationship with the people there, and taking them in as if they were their own family.
That’s what God did for us. He took us in as if we were His own family and when the time came, he made a supreme sacrifice for us. It wasn’t money or popcorn, but his own life. And we should take him in as our own as well. That little baby needed a family to take him in and take care of him. He needed someone to hold him and love him. So, God relied on us to take him in as our own. That means we get all the benefits of having the Christ child in our lives, and all the pain that goes with taking responsibility for that child. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes.
As it turns out the people in the Gulfport church took in a popcorn machine, and the Weaver popcorn company took in the people at the church. During the communion portion of the Christmas eve service, one of the deacons told the pastor that the family who donated the popcorn machine all those years ago had lost everything in the hurricane. The pastor let us know, and said, “I think we can take that family in as our very own, don’t you?”
This visit with my birth-family was better than I had hoped. At Thanksgiving, I wrote about how I hoped for a better relationship “with Chris and David, my brothers, Chris’ wife Michelle, and Bruce – my stepfather.” It’s grown so much since the last time we were all together. I felt more like a brother and a son than I ever have before. I still can’t believe how they took me in.
…maybe it’s just me?