Our daughter, Mary Addison, is now 26 years old. She is mentally and physically challenged.  She has skills of a 12-year-old but enjoys the innocence of a small child. That being said, you can imagine her love of all things “Christmas.” (She and Buddy the Elf have a lot in common.) We start listening to Christmas carols right after Halloween. We patrol neighborhoods in the car at night looking for Christmas light displays. With each new discovery, we shout and high-five like we scored the winning touchdown.

The absolute best part of Christmas for Mary Addison is what I call “The Christmas Effect.” All year long, she loves to say “Hi!” to people, and if they are wearing a nametag, she calls them by name. “Hi, Matthew!” “Hi, Nikki!” “Hi, Albert Jenkins!” Some folks completely ignore her, but most will smile and nod, and nervously scurry on by. But at Christmas, that all changes.

This time of year, she shouts, “Merry Christmas!” and waves vigorously. Full of Christmas cheer, almost everyone will respond with eye contact and a hearty, “Merry Christmas to you!” She lights up and says, “Shake-a my hand.” (That’s how she says it.) Already engaged, a hand-shake doesn’t seem so far fetched, so they lean in for the shake. She grabs hold and pulls them close. “Gimme hug.” They glance at me to make sure she won’t bite, and I give them a wink. They embrace and that’s when “The Christmas Effect” kicks in. Mary Addison is absolutely beaming, and her new friend is either crying or beaming themselves. Total strangers embracing with no regard for anything but brotherly love. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. It’s Christmas.

John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.