The Christmas Project

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Fourth Sunday of Advent was yesterday. All four candles in the Advent wreath on my kitchen table were lit.

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

♦ ♦ ♦

I was in my car at a stoplight in downtown Little Rock last Thursday afternoon. A man in a shabby coat and baggy pants stood on the curb next to my lane, holding an open box with both hands. I did my best to avoid his gaze while I waited for the red light to change. Finally, the man waved his hand in my direction and shook his box vigorously. I shook my head no in response. He took a tiny New Testament Bible from his pocket and slapped my driver’s side window with it.

♦ ♦ ♦

My favorite family Christmas tradition for the past nearly 10 years starts at the end of November. After dinner on one of those late autumn nights, when all the family is gathered, my husband and I give $25 to each family member, including ourselves. The charge is this: go make someone’s life a little better with that modest sum (add to it if you choose), and do it anonymously. We tell the stories of our quests over Christmas dinner. The conversation that ensues reveals details of individual missions that are funny and sad, exciting and troubling, some parts suspenseful, and all parts well-intentioned.

I call it The Christmas Project. While we wait for Jesus to return, these small gestures serve as matchstick flames against the inky darkness.

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