I watched the guests wandering in the warm summer sun towards the marquee, to enjoy a free lunch, entertainment and gift at Mission Australia’s Christmas Lunch in the Park in Perth.

A rough sleeper. An elderly woman on her own. A young mum with two children who had outgrown their tired clothes. People I’d expect. Then I noticed others, who at first glance didn’t seem to be struggling. It got me thinking. Who are the needy? Who deserves a free lunch and a gift?

What about people who’ve lost someone dear to them? A single mum battling illness? The refugee released from detention just last week? The violated teen who uses drugs to cope?

I began to wonder about the different kinds of need that surround us. Christmas is traditionally a family time and a time for giving. But for those with little to give or only negative associations with family, it can make the Christmas season daunting, fraught with grief or even conflict.

This highlights the diversity of need we can all face in a society that seems increasingly individualistic and isolating. The reality is that at first glance we never know what others are going through.

Christmas is also a time when we remember a particular baby born into poverty. Born in a backyard to poor parents, Jesus had been welcomed into the world by farm animals and shepherds. His family were soon forced to flee and became refugees (Matthew 2).

Yet, we also hear of Jesus’ rich life, a life given away in service to others. It reminds me of Mother Theresa’s feet - deformed from a life of giving away all the best fitted shoes to the poor, putting other people’s needs before her own.

Need comes disguised in many forms, as does wealth. All people should be valued for who they are.

All of us yearn for friendship and love. And for people who come to Christmas Lunch in the Park, that meal among strangers who become friends, at least for a time, means so much.

This Christmas let’s all open our eyes to need in our local communities: the elderly, the lonely or forgotten, those estranged from family, those suffering illness. There are many ways we can serve others. We can pray, share a meal, write a card, or buy a gift and so much more.

As Jesus said, “…love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).

By reaching out and showing others that we truly do care about them we can make an even greater difference to people in need this Christmas.

Scott Vawser
Chaplain, WA & NT

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'