Compassion drove The Salvation Army’s efforts to alleviate need and loneliness at Christmas. The first efforts were mass community dinners, providing a hot, full Christmas meal and allowing the isolated to sit down with others and be treated like family. And that still happens.
Later there were those who felt pangs in their hearts because children were waking on Christmas morning to find that it differed from no other day. No gifts. No joy. Nothing, except a depressing sameness contrasting with this special day. So the first of tens of millions of toys were given to make Christmas for the poor as special as Christmas for the wealthy. And that still happens.
Turning now to the infirm and aged, Salvation Army workers fanned out to nursing homes, hospitals, institutions, jails and anywhere else the marginalized and forgotten could be remembered. With little gift packets, a Christmas War Cry and a loving smile they reached out to those who could offer them nothing in return except an enfeebled “Thank you.” And that still happens.
Begun as a single spontaneous act at the San Francisco docks, the first kettle collected funds to change silver into soup. The novelty of this solicitation caught fire and soon Christmas kettles became part of the scene not only across America but throughout the world. And that still happens.
Over it all The Salvation Army sought to proclaim the good news that God did not just make a tourist stop on earth but that He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). So it has raised its voices and played its horns and accordions and concertinas and portable organs until it has sung nearly every Christmas song ever sung in its various generations. Bible reading by Bible reading, lyric by lyric, note by note, and greeting by greeting the story has gone out over 150 years. And that still happens.
We of The Salvation Army celebrate Christmas that way this year. And next year it will still happen.