As you can imagine, Christmas Day is really important to me. It’s both meaningful and spiritual and it makes me reflect on my own life.
I have been giving Christmas lunches to the lonely and needy for 49 years. These people often feel left out, excluded and pushed to the fringes of society. But when they come to my big marquee in Ashfield on Christmas Day there’s a welcoming family waiting. It’s deeply moving not just for them, but for me too. You see, as a young man I always felt very lonely at Christmas.
I know how it feels, so I’m determined to make Christmas better for those who have the least. Ironically, these days I often feel that I am a beneficiary of our big Christmas Day lunch because I get such fulfillment out of seeing the joy it brings to others. It’s a holy experience – one of sharing and giving.
By about 4 o’clock in the afternoon everything is packed up, mopped down and put away and I am left listening to the echoes of Christmas joy. It’s only then that I get a chance to spend time with my grown-up kids. We don’t do anything fancy, just share a cup of tea and a lot of love.
On Christmas night I put my shoes back on and head out to our food van in Woolloomooloo. It’s here, as the rest of Sydney rests their weary stomachs, that the most needy come for a Christmas meal. I sit with them and listen to their stories – sometimes I can almost feel Jesus sitting there with me. Sharing the night with these homeless people is both humbling and spiritual.
In many ways I want to give each and every one of them the World as a Christmas present, but in reality it has to be a small gift. Often they’ll pass it on to another homeless person who they think needs it more. When I see that I know true love exists.