Christmas this year

Christmas this year looks different. There is a usual busyness, made busier by a short trip to Africa wedged in between full weeks (more on that later).

It’s my second year of celebrating Christmas in Spain. But unlike last year, this year I have the opportunity to be with friends that don’t celebrate Christmas.

I love Christmas: lights, carols, gifts, markets, chocolates, roasted chestnuts, scarves and winter coats. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This year I want to indulge in that warm, fuzzy feeling. I want to enjoy the celebration of Christmas. And primarily, not secondarily, I want to experience a fresh joy and excitement of the Messiah’s birth. A Savior, born into the world, a light born into thick darkness.

He’s still shining.

Sometimes, surrounded by people who know the Christmas story by heart and perform it every year, I forget to savor that first Christmas joy.

My sister has been telling my 1-year-old niece the Christmas story using a miniature nativity set (minus the minor character sheep which may have gone out with the trash).

Telling the story to someone who has never heard it makes the story exciting again. What would happen in my own heart this year if I could share the wonder of Christmas with those who have never heard?

Who do I laugh at?

The sun came and went as ominous clouds marched across the sky. I shivered and wondered why I hadn’t checked the weather before I had walked to the park to study. Winter was coming; that was certain.

On the other side of the bubbling fountain of the garden plaza, a man was stretched out on a bench in front of the bamboo forest. I had seen him there before. He wore several layers of clothing all with that grimy, unwashed tinge. He was a perfect picture of a North African homeless. But he didn’t bother anyone. Even when he awoke, stood up, and stumbled to another part of the garden.Beside me, just on the other side of the fig tree, were two boys pretending to be men. They smoked cigarettes, played music, and took selfies.

But when the homeless man got up and walked away, the boys gawked at him. Then they whispered something to each other and snickered.

I was angry. If the man had bothered them, I could have understood the sentiment to mock him. But as it was, the man had done nothing to deserve anything less than their respect. And yet they laughed at him. How dare they!

While I was still high on my judgment throne, God asked me, “Who do you laugh at?”

Me? Laugh at someone?

How many times have I amused myself at the expense of another? In short, who do I look at and tell myself I am better than they? Maybe it’s not the homeless man. But it could be the boys smoking cigarettes. And really, does that make my pride any less hideous than theirs?