Remembering the Christmas Spirit

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I have a confession to make: My favorite holiday of the year is Christmas. I don’t care what anyone else says, I love Christmas. I love the decorations, I love the snow, I love the festivity, I love the Christmas food, and yes, I do love the gifts. But there are two things I love the most about Christmas. One of them is the Christmas stories. Everyone has a few favorites that they remember at Christmas time. Mine is a short story by Leo Tolstoy called “Where Love is, there God is also.” And in the spirit of generosity, I thought I’d share a summary of this short story with you. If you’d like to read it for yourself, you can click on this link here:

Tolstoy’s short story focuses on a shoemaker named Martin Avdeich. He was a good man, but in his old age he had lost hope and the will to live. One night, God visits him in a dream and promises that he would visit Avdeich’s home. Excited by the prospect of having God as his honored guest, Avdeich waits for him anxiously, ready to be a gracious host. While waiting, he comes across a few people just outside his home. The first is an old man whose strength waned before he could finish shoveling. The second is a penniless widow with her child. And the third is an old woman and a boy caught in a scuffle when the boy tries to steal one of her apples. In all three situations, Avdeich responds with compassion and mercy. He invites the old sweeper into his home to get warm, feeds and clothes the mother and her baby, and settles the argument between the boy and the old woman, helping them form a friendship.

By the end of the day, Avdeich has not had the chance to play host for God, and he feels cheated as a result. Avdeich has another dream that night of talking to God—this time, God shows him all the people he had helped that day, and tells Avdeich through Matthew 25 “I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

I share this because, in spite of the goodness of Christmas, December is no stranger to turmoil. Black Friday alone has been more trouble than it’s worth, but it’s not the only harsh part of Christmas. Just a few years ago, many children—and some of their teachers—lost their lives in their own school. Across America, we’re still reacting to the recent decision made in the Ferguson case, and not all of those reactions have been peaceful. And that’s just to name a few.

I said earlier that there were two things about Christmas that I love the most. One of them is the Christmas stories. The other part of Christmas that I love most is the Christmas Spirit, which comes to light in all the stories I mentioned. I share “Where Love is, there God is also” because, in the midst of remembering chaos and sadness, I also want us to remember why we have Christmas in the first place. I want us to remember why we tell stories like Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Leo Tolstoy’s “Where Love is, there God is also.” I want us to remember why we give and receive—and ultimately, which of those actions will bring joy that lasts longer. But most importantly, I want us to remember the sacrifice that God made for us—his own son—and the greatest gift he could ever give, the greatest gift we’ve ever received, and the one gift that no one can take away: his compassion, mercy, and love.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Holidays”

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