I left in tears. It was not how it was supposed to be.
Each year, my church puts on a Christmas dinner for the battered women’s home. The women get a candlelit dinner with all the trimmings in the parlor and the kids romp in the social meeting room with hot dogs, ice cream and crafts. Then, they all regather for a visit from Santa. People in our church donate presents, but we never know until the last moment who is coming or what age and gender of kids will be there.
This was my first year as gift coordinator. We posted notices for several weeks prior and handed out gift assignments to people in the parish. And though only half the gifts we needed came in by the Sunday before, I had six people whom I called at the last minutes to help fill in the gaps. Several others called that day and told me they would bring their gifts when they brought the side dished and deserts. The outreach ministries director and I were relying on God’s providence since we had not heard from the shelter. I gave it to God and felt confident the outcome would be wonderful.
However, our pastor became antsy about 2 hours beforehand and told me it needed to be better coordinated. He called in the daughter of the woman who usually coordinated the gift giving, but could not this year because of health reasons. This daughter left work early, rushed in with a panicked flurry and tersely took over, not even telling me hello. She whined about how inapporpiate many of the gifts were or that they were not for the age assigned. Even my son, who was in from out of town, commented on her rudeness. One of the deacons had also been called to come help, and during the doling of presents, she questioned if I was giving out too much to each child. But as it turned out, people arrived as they said they would at the last minute with gifts, and we ended up having way too much.
To me it was a fish and loaves thing. I was happy to see there were gifts left over for the ages we did not have that night, so the rest could go to a struggling mission in our town with a lot of very low income families. I thought it was a double blessing. But other leaders in the church grumbled I had not done it well and had not passed out enough gifts. Others grumbled that I had not handed out their gift. Not one person told me job well done.
I fought back the tears on the drive home. I had done my best, and all the kids and moms left smiling and grateful for the evening. Was that not the purpose? Yet all afternoon and evening, I had fought negative opposition from my own church family, not the peace and love of the season. My heart ached.
Then, on the Christian radio station, came a man who quoted what was on a faded and grease splattered sign on the side of my fridge (which I had forgotten was there) – “Do Your Best, Let God Do the Rest.” It was a celestial pat on the back. “Well done good and faithful servant.”
How perfect of our Loving Father in Heaven to touch me with that as a reminder that Christmas is never perfect. Humans are humans. Personalities clash. It will not all be peace on earth. Everyone brings their own baggage of worries, regrets and anxieties in the door with them along with the presents they carry – even into church. Everyone there wanted the evening to go really well. Their reactions, though negative, were because they cared about these kids and women.
My gift? I learned that it is not my job to please everyone, just my God. I cannot let others’ reactions affect my work for Him. That makes it all about me and not Him. All I can do is do my best and trust in Him for the outcome. That is all any of us are called to do.
This hectic, holy season, just do your best. Let God do the rest – be it charity work, home-made presents and baked goodies, fixing the family meal, or entertaining guests. Don’t let anyone else’s baggage become your negative present. Instead of carrying it as a burden shoved upon you, immediately give it to God to handle and go on about doing your best for Him. Let His love and grace be presents (and presence) enough.