Christmas was not given to us to be a burden. The advent of Christ’s birth was initially proclaimed using words like joy and peace. That Christmas has become something that makes many of us tense up in the shoulders is a relatively modern development.

I thought about that first Christmas night quite a bit while we handed out cocoa and joy in Baltimore on November 29. 

There was a lot going on that evoked images of that first Christmas night.

There was quite a bit of joy kicking around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. So many people were gleefully surprised to receive a cup of cocoa. We heard remarks like “This is so awesome that you guys are doing this! … God bless you for doing this, it’s great! … Wow! This is amazing!” There were a lot crazy-fun pictures taken at our photo booth. There was also quite a bit of dancing–sometimes just to keep warm, but other times because we just felt moved to dance.

There was a great sense of peace, as well. Our volunteers all worked with an initiative called “Beloved Community.” The community is a group of church leaders who have banded together to have serious conversations and take action steps in dismantling racism. Their work has been challenging, but it’s also obviously been rewarding. This group is well-bonded, regardless of their different backgrounds.

They shared their peace with the people they met at Inner Harbor. They shared peace with those looking for ways to stay warm on a cold night–in addition to hot cocoa, the team brought gloves to hand out. They shared peace with those who spoke different languages. They shared peace with those of different faiths–including the Buddhist monks who traded warm greetings each time they happened by. And they shared a lot of peace with those who simply appreciated having someone give them an ear for a few minutes.

Everybody out on November 29 has other things going on. Some of the volunteers were going to straight to meetings after our Tour event. But none treated this event like a burden. It was something received with joy and in that came peace.

I confidently speak for the Beloved Community in Baltimore when I say that our prayer for this season is that we all may find reason to greet it with joy, for in that lies peace.