What is more joyful and exciting than to return home to your loved ones after a long journey? I recently experienced this joy once again after being away from my family for more than a month. Jesus also understood this fully and used it in the parable of the prodigal son. This is a God-given gift to us – to have people we love and belong to. It is the cornerstone of community and called ‘family’. This becomes even more focused during the Christmas season when family members will travel thousands of kilometers to be together.
Jimmy is a friend of mine. We have been friends for most of his life. I met him as a young boy who lost his family. He became an orphan at a young age. Today at the age of sixteen he lives alone in a small house close to me. Over weekends he works with me and we share much about life. We have a plan of how he is going to be successful one day and he is working hard towards this plan. Recently I sat in his small house with him and he just shared with me how he, after all these years, still misses his mother every day. There is an empty hole in his life.
Close to Jimmy lives mama Marsha. She lost most of her daughters and lives with a number of orphans and one sick daughter. I’ve also known mama Marsha for many years, and every Christmas, Carolyn and I will go to her and spend some time with her. Her grandchildren told us that the week before Christmas she will remind them every day that we are coming soon. As Christians we are prisoners of hope!
During this Christmas season, as you spend it with family and friends, I want to ask you to consider two things. Firstly, why not visit someone close to you who is lonely? Someone like Jimmy or mama Marsha who has no one coming this year. There are as many lonely people in Australia, England and North America as in Africa! Secondly I want to ask you to become a voice for these people who often are without a voice. This can mean many things from getting practically involved, to speaking up and praying for them.
To finish with, may I leave with you a prayer of St. Francis? When I read it I was challenged and encouraged. I saw the heart of Jesus and His life on earth through these words:
“May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.”