Just before Christmas I was asked by a business leader about what to do with a special collection which had been taken up in their workplace to help people in the Christmas season.
My answer was simple. Hold on to it.
That brought a raised eyebrow.
"Yes," I said, "Hold on to it until the middle of January and then make it count."
"One of the lesser known little secrets in this country is that anyone receiving any from of social assistance, from Old Age Security to Ontario Works to ODSP received their cheque early, before Christmas. January is going to be a lean month, because the next cheques will not arrive until the last week of January. That’s five weeks between cheques. For people who live from cheque to cheque, January is going to be a tough month."
My questioner saw the point and said they would be making sure the donation from their workplace went in to an appropriate community agency in mid-January.
We don’t like to think about the post-Christmas hangover.
Many people dread the incoming credit card bill.
Some head south to escape the cold, harsh reality of a Canadian winter. For many, however, there is no escape. There is just today, and perhaps tomorrow.
Many years ago my wife and I found ourselves alone on Christmas Day. Realizing what would happen, I called our local nursing home and asked if there was anything happening on Christmas Day that we might join in.
I was surprised to be asked by the Activity Director to dress up as Santa Claus and to deliver small gifts provided by staff to the residents who were not being taken out by family.
It was a most remarkable experience.
One man, a member of my congregation, lost in the cloud of Alzheimer’s Disease, looked at me and recognizing the red suit, smiled. That was something I had never seen him do on my visits with him and I filed it away to share with his wife.
I also realized that no matter who we are, not matter where we have come from in life, in the end we are all equal. As Santa Claus I gave gifts to all, from a life-long farm hand to a former provincial cabinet minister, who had guided our province through some very turbulent political times. All of them responded to me in the disguise of Santa Claus. Some smiled. Some reached out. No one told me to go away.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah the author writes, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined."
I like to think that in that Christmas Day afternoon I spent in that nursing home I was able to bring some of that light to the residents. It was a powerful reminder that Christmas has nothing to do with gifts but is centred on light. In his coming into the world, Jesus Christ lights up with world.
Rocco Palmo, a noted American Vatican observer and commentator said this just before Christmas in his blog.
"...wherever we are or find ourselves doing through it, may we not forget those who seek this Coming most: the sick, the suffering, the poor and lonely... "the people who walk in darkness" and most deserve the Light."
I think that is worthwhile pondering and acting on in this post Christmas season. It’s going to be a long winter. Let’s seek and serve the light.
Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.