1 John 3:17 But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him–how can God’s love be within him ? 1 John 3:18 Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. 1 John 3:19 Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God’s side, and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord.
Today, December 26, is known in a few countries as Boxing Day. It was started in the UK about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day.
It might have been the Romans that first brought this type of collecting box to the UK, but they used them to collect money for the betting games which they played during their winter celebrations!
In Holland, some collection boxes were made out of a rough pottery called ‘earthenware’ and were shaped like pigs. Perhaps this is where we get the term ‘Piggy Bank’!
The Christmas Carol, Good King Wenceslas, is set on Boxing Day and is about a King in the Middle Ages who brings food to a poor family.
It was also traditional that servants got the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families on Boxing Day. Before World War II, it was common for working people (such as milkmen and butchers) to travel round their delivery places and collect their Christmas box or tip. This tradition has now mostly stopped and any Christmas tips, given to people such as postal workers and newspaper delivery people, are not normally given or collected on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day has now become another public holiday in countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is also the traditional day that Pantomimes started to play. There are also often sports played on Boxing Day in the UK, especially horse racing and football matches! (You know that strange kinda football?)
The 26th of December is also St. Stephen’s Day. Just to confuse things, there are two St. Stephens in history! The first St. Stephen was a very early follower of Jesus and was the first Christian Martyr (a person who dies for their religious beliefs). He was stoned to death by Jews who didn’t believe in Jesus.
The second St. Stephen was a Missionary, in Sweden, in the 800s. He loved all animals but particularly horses (perhaps why there is traditionally horse racing on boxing day). He was also a martyr and was killed by pagans in Sweden. In Germany there was a tradition that horses would be ridden around the inside of the church during the St. Stephen’s Day service!
In the US, Boxing Day is celebrated as a public holiday in some, mainly southern, states: Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas. Although referred to informally as Boxing Day, officially it is called “Day After Christmas Day.” And knowing us we probably add to the end of that “Sale.” One more excuse to make a profit.
How are you celebrating this U.S. non-religious holiday? Are you thinking about the poor and those who offer you services throughout the year or are you celebrating the return of the unwanted presents to the store? That seems to be more of the ritual here than thinking about the poor. I am very thankful for all the good stuff we do for the poor around Christmas time. It really warms the heart. I wish we would find ways to be that open-hearted the rest of the year. Think of how Christmas could be if we provided structures and systems that would encourage and allow the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. That really would be a Christmas present to celebrate, even a Boxing Day celebration… but more than that we would be celebrating the Spirit of God living in and through us to care for all of God’s people.
Happy Boxing Day. Whatever you do with it… think of your brothers and sisters in need.
Dear Lord, we have kinda lost the meaning of caring for the poor on a day like Boxing Day. We sometimes miss it in the everydayness of life – for people are hurting and in need all year round. Give us a spirit that seeks to lift up our brothers and sisters all year long – everyday in every way, in and through Jesus. Amen.
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