One of our family’s goals since we’ve moved to our new house is to build relationships with our neighbors. We got to know many of our neighbors on our street back in Memphis, and in a way we all looked out for each other, spent time in one another’s homes, and unless it was blazing hot or freezing cold, we were outside, visible, sitting on porches or landscaping. It was a noisy street being that it was a thoroughfare for traffic to use to make an easy cut to Cooper, a main road in Midtown. It could be a dangerous street, which is why we would let our kids play alone in our backyards instead of the front. One neighbor in particular asked the city to put in speed bumps, which were met without a response. We just learned to manage our street. It was what it was, and we resolved to “accept the things we could not change.”
Our new neighborhood in Gallatin is less noisy, safe, and there is a lot of space for the kids to play. We sit in a cul-de-sac between four other homes. Our kids can ride bikes on smooth sidewalks, and can play in both the front, side, and back yards. When we first moved in, several of our neighbors came out to greet us and introduce themselves. Our next door neighbor, Chuck, has been especially kind and welcoming. As the months went on, though, we began noticing how seldom we saw our neighbors. The weather until recently has been spectacular! The weekends are quiet around here, well except for the Fleming residence. It is rarely quiet around here! I’m starting to wonder if we are the reason our cul-de-sac neighbors avoid coming outside. Hmmm…
Something I learned a while back is that sometimes you have to be the one to take the first step to make connections. Christmas is the perfect time to extend hospitality and love to others, including those who live near us. I am always looking for opportunities for my kids to serve others, because I believe that in order for them to learn service they need to have space and a place to serve. And I need to make the space in my schedule and in my heart to serve as well. So we decided to send a little box of love in the form of homemade cinnamon rolls with a note of blessing to each of our four neighbors. The girls helped me roll them out and slather all butter, sugar and cinnamon that was more than necessary. After we baked and packaged them we then delivered them to each house. And take a guess how many were home or came to the door to answer us? Not a one. That’s okay. We just left them on the doorstep for a sweet little surprise for when they got home. Small steps to bridge large gaps. One step at a time.
Saturday morning was for cinnamon rolls and the afternoon was for cookies. The girls got busy decorating their Christmas creations while Judson napped. I was surprised how fast my little worker bees were as they cut out, frosted, sprinkled, and plated the sugary treats. Another sweet memory made.
As we think about Christmas and the gift of our Savior, Jesus, the hope of the world, our giving is a small reflection of the generosity of the Father. As moms and dads give gifts to their children, as the church serves the poor, in the extending of hospitality to friends and neighbors, and in especially giving the message of Christmas, Jesus Himself, we invite others into Christmas. Some are suffering, and 2016 was a hard year, so when we love and serve them we remind them that Christmas means Emmanuel even if they do not feel like God is near. For others, Christmas brings up a lot of memories of loved ones who have passed on, so there is a tinge of sadness in all of the holiday “cheer.” Some are lonely, weary, and burdened. We echo Jesus’ words, “Come.” And we say, “Come to Jesus for rest. Come to Him who was once a baby, our Suffering Servant, and now Exalted King, and let him take your burdens, all of them, and give you His rest.” This is the gift of Christmas. This is who we give at Christmas, even if it begins with a word of welcome, a hug, a note of encouragement, or even a box of cinnamon rolls.