The return of December marks the season when many will observe Christmas with the trimming of a tree in their living room, the hanging of colourful lights around their homes, and the decorating of their life with the poor. Let me explain what I mean.
In recent years a local business has contacted me to help them find a family who could use a helping hand at Christmas. That sounds noble and innocent enough, but I have always steered these festive philanthropists to families in the community because I haven't wanted to subject our own church attendees to their giving. We, the church, help them ourselves anyway.
My concern about these holiday helpers is their motives. Take, for example, one manager with whom I spoke mere hours before they imparted their gifts to the poor family I introduced them to. This manager was telling me how she was going to go to the family's home with age, gender, and size relative gifts for the children as well as taking along all the supplies and ingredients for making a large turkey dinner. Rare wintry weather (we are in Victoria after all) was in the forecast and this caused her anticipation to grow and peak as she excitedly drew the thankful picture she surmised would be this family's response. She ended her hopeful description by asking me longingly, "Do you think they might even cry?" My first thought was to reply, "Well maybe, but if they don't you can always pinch them." But I held my tongue.
In reality it was this woman who needed to be pinched. She wasn't giving to lift others up. Neither were her actions compelled by compassion for the less fortunate. No she, like so many, was making the poor part of a magical Christmas so she could get the maximum warm fuzzies possible on December 25th. That poor family might just as well have been hanging on her tree or at least encased in a big snow globe in her living room.
Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying, "Don't give to the poor this Christmas." Neither am I saying that everyone who does so is only doing so for selfish reasons. I am saying, though, that how we remember the poor at Christmas may be more of a measure of our keeping of the emotive holiday traditions of men than a measure of our true compassion, sacrifice, and love for the poor.
The measure of that may have to wait until sometime into January because, for some, charity begins after Christmas.