Wednesday, December 19, 2012
It's the one where you got a workout just from scouring the stores to find that perfect dress and jewelry. The one where you paid as much attention to your hair and makeup as you did on the day you said "I do." Where you painted on a broad smile from the moment you exited the car, laughed politely at jokes that weren't really funny, and focused on making eye contact while shaking the thousandth hand and following sometimes three conversations at once...all while in heels that were killing your feet.
By the end of the night, you collapsed at home, glad that was over for another year. In fact, you were certain both your face and feet would need the full 364 days to recuperate.
Then, there are the loud family Christmas parties with houses stuffed full of a dozen or more people who share your DNA, who know you better than most, and who feel compelled to tell every embarrassing story about your childhood to those significant others who have been grafted into the family by marriage.
While some people dread these type gatherings, too, in my family, these get-togethers are always joyful, full of laughter, stories of years gone by, no handshakes but lots of hugs and snuggles, smiles that reach our eyes, way too much homemade food, the reading of the Christmas story, a carol or two, and maybe even a round of Bible Trivia.
All nineteen of us are usually split apart by many lines on a map, making this time together more precious than gold. Still, by the night's end, we collapse just the same as before. Our faces still hurt, too, but this time it's from hours spent grinning with real laughter.
When I think of an adult Christmas party, these two contrasting images come to mind.
But this past Tuesday, I was blessed to experience a rather impromptu Christmas party with a group of refugees who have never before celebrated Christmas.
I hadn't fixed my hair, worried about my clothes, or even put on lipstick.
Still, that tiny, cold room held the most true spirit of Christmas of any party I have ever attended.
Through a pretty dense language barrier, we sought to explain the American traditions of giving gifts to show our love for each other, of eating way too much, and of singing Christmas carols.
Then, the party really got started with us ESL teachers helping pass out large Christmas bags to each refugee. These presents weren't what you would expect under the tree; yet, they were given out of hearts of love to those less fortunate and were received with more gratitude than I have ever seen.
Some ladies in a Sunday School class at my church had gathered things like fleece blankets, warm weather clothing, toilet paper, rolls of quarters for the laundromat, rice, and other necessities these refugees struggle to provide for themselves.
I added a few bangle bracelets, which I knew my ladies from Burma would love, and sat back to watch the joy fest around me.
Each refugee's eyes light up when it was her turn to receive a bag. One woman pointed to her chest in surprise--this was all for her?
Another bubbly woman said, "You give, and I have nothing give."
I tried, but there was no way to truly share how wrong she was, how I left there full, taking away more than I had come with.
At the party's close, we paused to pray and sing.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
The sound of a half dozen cultures and tongues raising their voices together in praise of the Christ child come for us--surely, the heavens were dancing with joy along with our praise.
Oh, what a party that must have been up there.
at 8:12 PM