Christmas all Year Round
Christmas is not just once a year. It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand. These are the words of St Mother Teresa.
Christ was born on this earth, just like billions before him, and billions after him. But he came to teach us something that will redeem us. He came to teach us to serve. At Christmas time it is especially significant to remember this, because whenever we serve, we bring Christ to others, just like he came to us on his Nativity more than 2000 years ago.
Service changes people. It brings out the best in each one of us. It gets us looking outward instead of inward. It prompts us to consider others needs ahead of our own.
In South Africa we have many opportunities for service. There is a multitude of organisations which need people and which are looking for people willing to give their service. There are organisations that do good to others, such as churches and non-governmental organisations, but that do not have the budget to pay salaries. Therefore they are looking for people who are willing to give their time and skill freely, voluntary, for no reward or compensation.
Does this actually happen? It certainly does, and it happens all the time all over South Africa.
I have visited, churches, non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations in all nine provinces of South Africa. I have come across people who might be called angels or messengers of the Good News in most of these organisations. Men and women, who themselves have very little, but who have powerhouses of generosity within them to share with others.
Some of them have told me that they had been volunteering for years. The jobs that volunteers do range from menial little tasks such as folding envelopes to real face-time tasks with a person in need, such as home-based care or lay counselling.
Whatever the task, it firstly lightens the burden on the organisation, and, more importantly, it brings Christ to the people. It allows people to experience the helping, loving, caring hand of God. It allows people to experience Christmas.
I recently visited a group of volunteers in Montagu, a small town in the diocese of Oudtshoorn, about 180km from Cape Town. A town full of beautiful people who suffer from time to time the effects of poverty and unemployment.
One of the tasks that this group of volunteers does is to bake bread during the last week before the elderly receive their social grants.
They say that this is the most difficult time for the elderly because they literally have nothing in their houses. The volunteers combine their own contributions of flour and other ingredients to bake the bread and then take it to the elderly. Once they are in the homes of the elderly they also look for what else they might be able to do for them.
They bring Christmas to these old people every time they do that. They bring Christmas throughout the year.
In your parish, and in your community, there are many organisations who could use your help. They are waiting for you. Even if you have only an hour or two per week to spare, offer your help. They need it.
Practise volunteering at home too. Do things for others without expecting anything in return, without counting and keeping tabs on what you have done. Do something for your husband or wife, brother or sister or friend, knowing that you will never remind them of that favour ever again. Give them a little bit of Christmas.
For Mother Teresa said: It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.