I think of myself as a responsible minimalist. I like good coffee in the morning, an occasional glass of wine, and enough food to experiment with new recipes every now and then. I feel happiest in moments like these, writing at the kitchen computer in our warm, decluttered home — surrounded by a (usually) happy, well-fed family. I clip coupons, shop at consignment stores, and compare prices on just about everything. It’s not an indulgent life — just a family trying to make ends meet on one income.
But this week it feels like God has opened my eyes to reality, a reality beyond the walls of my own cozy home. I’m reading a book called Breakfast at Sally’s, written by Richard LeMieux, a homeless man who had once been a happily married and successful business owner. Now let me say that I’m not a stranger to this reality altogether. One of my relatives has lived her whole life below poverty level, with bad choices and bad luck following her into every new turn. And of course I donate regularly to our church, participate in canned food drives, and am overall aware that people out there are suffering.
But this book got me. Maybe it’s the guilt, because I just carted home loads of gifts for the kids, and those gifts now sit wrapped in pretty packages under our 9-foot sparkling Christmas tree. Or maybe it’s the two hams I bought (with coupons!) for our Christmas dinner with family. But for whatever reason, I’m seeing it now from the outside looking in. And it’s ridiculous. How on earth did a tiny baby, born in a stable of all places, turn into this frenzied holiday? This monster of a thing that makes the suffering among us feel more lonely and cold?
I know that God is with me — I talk with Him every day. But I get the distinct feeling that Jesus Himself is on the outside of this seasonal mania, looking in. He sees our tree through the windows, the hams in the fridge, the kids sleeping peacefully upstairs. He’s not upset or angry — after all He led us into this life, gave us what we have. And we try our best to honor Him with it. But that man who began life in a humble manger, it seems to me, wouldn’t be feasting with us on Christmas Day. He wouldn’t be spending hundreds of dollars on gifts and food just to celebrate His own birth.
He would be with the people on the outside — the homeless, the rejected, the poor. The people who drink coffee at the Salvation Army and buy cheap wine to drown their sorrows. He would love them, and be their Truth.