Last week, my wife baked cookies, brownies and snacks for our neighbors. We both donned our masks and walked down the street distributing bags of Christmas goodies to our friends, a token of our love and appreciation for them during this COVID year of 2020.

One of our neighbor families is Vietnamese. They have a bright and cheerful 9-year-old daughter, Anna, who loves to play with our grandchildren. When we took our Christmas goodies to her house, Anna greeted us at the door. Her mother doesn’t speak English.

The following day, Anna rang our doorbell with a gift bag of her own. Inside, she placed a Hershey’s bar, two fun-size Snickers and M&Ms. We suspect it was her leftover Halloween candy. She was thrilled to give it, and we were touched beyond measure.

Little acts of kindness help us all get through. For many, this Christmas is especially painful. While we feel some relief with the first vaccines, we recognize that more than 300,000 families lost loved ones to COVID-19 this year.

Many years ago, I officiated a funeral on Christmas Eve for one of our best friends who was barely 29 years old. The holidays aren’t always joyous. But the meaning of the day when God sent his son to save us from our sins is all the more meaningful.

We all know the stories that led up to the birth: Joseph and Mary on their long journey to Bethlehem, turned away from every inn until they found a stall where the child was born; the hovering star that led the Magi from the east bearing their prophetic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The shepherds shocked from their sleep on the hillside by the angels of heaven proclaiming a Savior. But we pay little attention to what happened “the day after.”

Like most of us, Mary and Joseph had little time to enjoy the Christmas events that surrounded them. They were immediately faced with Herod’s efforts to hunt down their son. The soldiers fell upon Bethlehem with a vengeance, slaughtering every male child 2 years old and younger (Matthew 2:16). Warned in a dream, Joseph fled with his little family to Egypt where they spent eight years hiding as refugees from Herod’s wrath.

Thousands today are living in exile, refugees from war. In some places, believers are spending these days in prison for their faith. Some are facing death because they have embraced Jesus as son of God and Savior. Many others have heavy hearts from the loss of loved ones.

The full story of Jesus’ birth embraces the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow. Whether we’re filled with celebration and happiness or thrown into heartache and despair, God is sufficient. He has been there. He knows our joy and our sorrow, and he has given his son that we might know him.

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com.

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