As Christmas approaches, the familiar strains of “Peace on Earth, God Will Toward Men” are sung by carolers and in houses of worship all over the land. Peace is an elusive thing. Everyone wants peace, yet few seem to actually possess it in any substantive form. For many, the attraction of the Christmas season is the momentary fulfillment of that dream, the wonderful moment of “Peace on Earth.” For one night, it seems possible. Then some jerk cuts you off on the freeway on your way back from grandma’s house on Christmas day, and that “peace” slips away.
Giving peace and hope at Christmas time is something we each can do. It is my Christmas wish for my friends and family this year. My favorite poet, Emily Dickinson wrote:
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
For so many, Christmas can be such a sad a lonely time. For those who have lost loved ones, it can be a time of sadness and reflection of missed opportunities, regrets and unfulfilled dreams. But the human spirit has such a great capacity for hope that it doesn’t let us sit idly and focus on our sadness, it forces us to concentrate on the ones who are still in our lives who can bring us peace and joy and to the new opportunities ahead of us.
This time of year, we need to reach out, spread hope, kindness and cheer to those around us in need of hope. There are so many wonderful opportunities to give hope to others. One of my favorite charities is Angel Tree. Angel tree is a ministry that reaches out to the children of incarcerated parents, insuring that they can experience the joy of Christmas. Many churches sponsor Angel Tree programs, and the national organization has a great website that also provides opportunities for giving if you do not have a local opportunity for participating.
Years ago, after the death of my niece, I channeled my grief each Christmas by finding a child on the Angel Tree who would have been about her age. I lovingly looked for gifts for that anonymous child – as if shopping for my niece – and knew that I was silently giving hope and love to someone in need. It always helped me prepare myself for the holiday season. Years later, I had an opportunity to deliver gifts to families as a part of the Angel Tree ministry at my church. I saw, firsthand, the gratitude of the families being blessed by the ministry. We weren’t just delivering toys and gifts…we were delivering The Gift of Hope to those who had little. The blessings we received were immense.
Find a way this Christmas to share The Gift of Hope with others. Whether it is a formal giving program like Angel Tree, playing anonymous Santa to a needy family in your community, helping at a local shelter or simply giving to Toys for Tots, there are so many ways to spread peace and hope this season.