Another Kind of Christmas Shoe:
A reflection on the greatest gift that you and I have to offer
Written by Joanna Krawczynski, Western Campus Coordinator
A close friend of mine does not like Christmas. For her, the sentimental songs and glittering gifts only offer promises that are never fulfilled. The radio sings about cozy companionship, twinkling storefronts proclaim dreams coming true… then we go straight from Winter Wonderland into the frenzy of Boxing Day, only to wind back up in our office chairs on Monday.
I’m also not a huge fan of dizzying store line-ups. I also get annoyed when Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree comes on the radio three times a day. As a Christian, Christmas carries a special significance for me that, in spite of my best intentions, sometimes slips into the shadow of preparations and celebrations.
Christmas is often conflated with gift-giving. And rightly so, except when giving is misunderstood to be about shiny ribbon and bloated stockings. When it comes to Christmas, we have a special opportunity to recognize the immeasurable value of another person by offering them the greatest gift we can give: the gift of self. In doing so, we are mirroring that first Christmas! Imagine: God loved us so much that He came to a tiny town and was born in a dirty stable to a teenage mom, to live a life totally dedicated to pouring Himself out for others.
Love is a gift that can never be wrapped – in anything besides swaddling clothes, that is. As Mother Teresa wrote, “Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”
This reminds me of a Christmas tradition we recently adopted at home. One year, we decided to flip a small wooden folding table upside down and turn it into a hay-filled “manger” alongside our family Christmas tree. Gift-giving then took on a new twist: gifts for my family went under the tree, gifts for the Christ Child went under the manger.
The first year we did this, I put my dance shoes under the manger… after much hesitation. Finding gifts for Jesus was much harder than I thought it would be! To make matters more complicated, I decided to combine this with another tradition of ours: every year, we set an extra place at our table in case an unexpected stranger knocks at our door. That year, I thought it would be fun to also turn those gifts laid at the manger into a collection for the stranger, should he ever make an appearance.
For some reason, giving things away made me realize how much I treasured them. I never imagined that my dance shoes (nothing fancy, just my worn sneakers!) would be something that I would have a hard time giving away. But there I was, shoes in hand, standing humbly before the manger, unable to bend down to give them away.
To me, those shoes represented my dream of one day having a dance team of my own. For me, to lay down my shoes was like laying down my dream and saying, “God – may this gift you’ve given me be used to bless someone else, even if that means I have to part with it.”
In the end, my shoes lay under the manger, undisturbed, as my family and I gathered around the table to feast, then jammed at the piano and danced together. As for me and my bare feet – I didn’t regret a moment of it.
Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, as you celebrate with friends, family, and maybe even strangers, may God’s amazing love for you be a reminder of the precious gift that your own life is. May your joy overflow and never run empty as you give of yourself in generous love for others.
This may cost you more than your shoes, but it is only in completely giving of ourselves that we can truly love others and be filled with the love we so deeply desire – a desire that neither dizzying line-ups nor jingling bells could ever hope to satisfy.
Merry Christmas and a blessed 2016, from all of us at NCLN!