Eiko was 31 kilos (68 pounds) that Christmas. Her skin stretched tightly across her cheekbones, and even her bulky winter clothes could not hide her extremely thin body. Only thirteen years old, she was suffering from a severe eating disorder that had begun at the age of nine. My parents and we, her siblings, hadn’t been fully aware of her struggles in the earlier stages, but now their impact was glaringly apparent.
Two years ago, some friends and I took boxes of food to families who had been displaced by the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Constitución, Chile, and were still living in makeshift camps ten months later. Margarita, one of the volunteers, had taken a collection of Christmas decorations in her office building, so we included a few of those in each box, along with a copy of the Christmas issue of Conéctate (the Spanish edition of Activated) and a CD of Christmas music. One person in Margarita’s office had also donated a Christmas tree, which we also took with us, even though we didn’t know exactly what we would do with it.
Several years ago, I spent two weeks in Sahrawi refugee camps near the oasis city of Tindouf, in southwest Algeria. Ten of us, from teenagers to fifty-somethings, had made the trip from our base in Granada, Spain, to speak and perform in the camps’ schools and community centers.
The Sahrawi people are the remnant of the nomadic tribes that roamed the deserts and coasts of the former Western Sahara. During the 100 years that they lived under Spanish rule, they became accustomed to living in more stationary situations and built large communities like Smara.
Some song lyrics have a big impact on me. One example is Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With.” The chorus of which says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you are with.”
It was 1974, my boyfriend and I had just split up, and I was heartbroken. For weeks I alternated between trying to avoid him and trying to catch his attention. Attending the same school that he did was torture! This song helped me then to look outward, to reach out. Half a lifetime later, it had the same effect.
For many of us, since we were young children, Christmas has been a special time of celebrating Jesus’ birth, giving and receiving gifts, and spending time with family and friends. But Christmas is not only a time to enjoy these blessings ourselves; it is also the greatest opportunity of the year to tell the world about our precious Savior. Perhaps more than any other day of the year, it’s a time when people think about the miracle that is at the heart of Christmas—God sending His own dear Son into our world to lead us back to Him. Even in non-Christian cultures, people are interested in learning the true meaning of Christmas.
Some years back, my husband and I were serving as missionaries in northern Brazil when an opening came up for us to take part in a new venture helping young people in Buenos Aires.
At the time we had three children, and I was pregnant with our fourth. My husband is from Argentina and was hoping we could arrive in time to spend Christmas with his elderly father, so a few days before Christmas we set out on the 7,000 km (4,350 mi) overland journey. The trip went fine until we arrived at the border.
Each December I ask my children, Toby and Kathy, now seven and nine, to go through their toys and clothes and set aside what they have outgrown or no longer use. Then I check what they’ve selected, weeding out worn-out items and exercising my veto power in a few cases, and box up the best of the rest to give to others who have less than we do. Besides instilling in the children a spirit of giving, I have found this to also be an effective way to trim down on clutter and put “gently used” items that they no longer need or want to good use.
Jesus temporarily renounced the rights of His citizenship in heaven and became a citizen of this world. Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. He not only adapted Himself to our bodily form, but also conformed to the human ways of life, customs, language, dress, and living, that He might understand and love us better and communicate with us on the lowly level of our own human understanding. He did it that He might reach us with His love, prove to us His compassion and concern, and help us understand His message in simple, childlike terms that we could grasp.
—David Brandt Berg
As I rushed around the streets of Morelia, Mexico,the stoplights were crowded with beggars. It was Christmas Eve, and I had gone out with my 10-year-old daughter for some last-minute shopping.
“Look at her!” Cathy drew my attention to an old woman who had stopped begging momentarily and was rubbing her cold, bare feet.
The weather had been dark and rainy, and I felt just as gloomy. It happens to us all, I guess.
As I sat at my desk, I remembered it was the birthday of a longtime friend—a single, middle-aged woman who had dedicated the past 30 years to nursing and loved her work. Knowing that she didn’t have family in town, I decided to give her a call. Sure enough, she was on B shift, scheduled to work late into the evening, and wouldn’t have much of a birthday this year. As always, though, she sounded cheerful and was happy I had called.