What does Christmas mean to you?

As we go through the Advent season and head towards Christmas, I begin to reflect on this whole holiday season and what it means to me and what it has meant. I remember as a kid growing up… Christmas meant really one thing… getting presents! that was really it… lights, a tree, a big dinner… but really it all came down to ‘what did you GET for Christmas!’. this is often times the extent of meaning for many who ‘celebrate’ this season.

I also think of another important meaning for many during this season… the time to get together with family. For some this is a glorious time… seeing family members that they may not have seen in a while… or spending some ‘quality time’ with family members that may have been lacking in other times of year. For others, unfortunately, this might be a nightmare, especially if they do not have the best relationship with members of the their family, or if they grew up in an abusive or unhealthy family situation.

Or maybe it’s the prospect of snow (depending on where you live) and the romantic idea of a ‘white christmas’ and seeing a nice cold white blanket covering everything, creating a picturesque, ‘Christmas card’ moment to remember… or a snowball fight with the neighborhood kids… or sledding down steep hills to flashback to childhood days.

For some, the holidays bring a well needed and well deserved vacation from their highly demanding occupations… a break from the stress of a job.

As I have been thinking about the meaning of Christmas, my perspective has been challenged quite a bit for me this year… especially since i have made friends with a community of homeless people known as Nickelsville, who live in tents in a parking lot near UW in Seattle. I think differently about so many things in my life because of knowing this group homeless people. What do they think about Christmas time? What does Christmas mean to them? Presents? probably not. Family? If they had good relationships with their family, or if they have any family at all, they most likely wouldn’t be living on the street. And snow? I cringe at the thought of the people of NIckelsville sleeping outside while their tent is covered in snow and they are huddled up inside trying to keep from freezing to death. No pretty lights, no family reunion, no trimmed tree, no pile of presents… just the reality that this season could not end soon enough and that the cold and wet days of winter in Seattle would be over. This really messes with my perspective on the season for sure.

I think of a little baby being born out in that cold… no family around, just some strangers who happened to wander by. No bed to give birth in, no bed for the baby. Just using whatever is available to make things work… to try to get by. There was no room in the shelter available so they ended up there… feeling alone and rejected. And the baby… what kind of world would that little child be born into. This is no place for a baby to be. But yet it was just good enough for a certain baby named Emmanuel to enter the world. This is the story of a Saviour… named Jesus. he entered the world in a place much like Nickelsville. It was the only place available for those who have no place else to go.

So as far as the meaning of Christmas, this story is it. It is because of this story that I have become so mindful of those who are without… those who find themselves in great need. I think of the world and its great need for someone to come and bring light into a world full of darkness… and i think of Emmanuel… ‘God with Us’, coming and bringing that light that changed the world forever… making all things new.

So in the midst of all the craziness and the busy-ness that this season brings, despite all the stuff that comes along with it all… i find the meaning of it all in a poor child in a barn surrounded by strangers and shit and the freezing cold night air… and i think of those who live in that reality day and night… and i know that despite all of that… joy is there… and peace is there… and hope is there… and this is where Emmanuel shows up… right there with them.

Maybe this season we can come up with a better question to ask besides ‘What did you GET for Christmas’.

Maybe the question we should ask is ‘Where do you see Light in the midst of the dark this Christmas’ For me, I see it in my homeless friends at Nickelsville.


Beau, Nickelsville’s resident poet

This is a video of my friend Beau, who is a resident at the homeless community called Nickelsville, where i spend every Monday night.  I have gotten to know Beau over the last two months and know a bit about his life and his story and also have read his amazing poetry.  I have taken two of his poems and written songs with them… in this video, he recites one of the poems that i wrote a song with… which i will post a video of me performing soon.  So here is a bit about Beau and one of his poems, “Nothing is Meaningless”.