we debated doing the huge christmas party again this year in buena vista. last year it was awesome, but this year we were hesitant.
in poverty, where kids don't get gifts for christmas, the last thing you want to do is steer them towards the westernized version of christmas - where gifts mean so much. as much as we want to give the kids a gift, there is beauty in the simplicity of celebrating the birth of Christ without needing gifts.
so we didn't do a big fundraiser for the party like we did last year. a few weeks before christmas, we were worshiping with our friends at Journey in Jacksonville, when my buddy Vic shared a thought. imagine if it was your birthday and all your friends came over. they acknowledge it's your birthday ("happy birthday!"), but then they all begin opening gifts for themselves as they celebrate your birthday. as Vic put it, "that would be pretty jacked up."
the passages of study that day were the many in scripture that show jesus represented in the poor. according to God's word, when we help the poor, we help Jesus. when we give to the poor, we give to Jesus. when we reach out to the "least of these" - in them we find Jesus. he closed with a challenge to give gifts to Jesus this year. in celebrating His birthday, give something to those in need - give to Him.
with that, the party was on. we decided to forgo buying gifts for each other, and instead finance the 2009 buena vista christmas party. it was wonderful. every single kid walked away with a gift and a cookie. the kids were much calmer than usual (when we do other types of distributions), and the entire event ran smoothly. we prayed that God would protect their hearts from the silly correlation between "Christmas" and "presents." we asked God to receive the glory as each young child smiled and received his or her gift. i believe fully that He did.