As I write this I’m sending you the warmest of Christmas blessings. You are part of my big extended family. A family of the rich and the poor. Of the extraordinary and the ordinary. A family of sharing, compassion and of loving kindness. When this family pulls together miracles happen – like our wonderful Christmas Day lunch for the homeless and needy.

This year thousands of people will be there. The poor, the lonely and the destitute will come from everywhere. Together they all gather under our big marquee in Ashfield to share the sort of Christmas everyone enjoys. It really is a special time and it is made possible by the support of people just like you.

I’ve been sharing Christmas Day with the homeless since 1971 – that’s a long time! My experience with them has taught me that they are just like you and me. They have ups and downs, and they yearn for better times. Together I know we can make this Christmas special for them.

Back in those early years I remember sharing a plate of sandwiches with a few homeless people on Christmas Day, but I was determined to do much more. Thankfully, my family of supporters rallied around and pretty soon we fed 400 people at Christmas. Now my supporter family has grown so large we can serve 3,000 meals on the big day!

Behind every meal is a grateful smile. Fred’s is one of them. He is disabled and his eyesight is bad. He also lives alone. In fact Fred lives in western Sydney – in one of the poorest neighbourhoods. I know that our Christmas day lunch is one of the few highlights in his lonely life. So every year a kind-hearted volunteer drives out to collect him and I make sure he gets one of the best seats in the house! We fuss over him and show him a joyful time. Fred’s never lonely at our Christmas Day!

Jenny is another one who shares Christmas with us. She is homeless and as skinny as a matchstick. She has a weather-worn face, and a toothless smile that can melt your heart. Last year as our Christmas band played she reached out her arms and shouted “C’mon Bill, come and dance with me”. We danced and she beamed with the sort of happiness that only our Christmas lunch can bring to the homeless.

You see everyone needs to feel like they belong. Everyone needs a family – especially at Christmas. So I make sure we’ve got a place for them all – no matter how poor or needy they are. Sometimes they are so downtrodden they don’t even feel worthy of our Christmas lunch – they watch from afar – but we encourage them in with warmth and kindness.

Sadly, this year I expect more single mums will turn to us at Christmas. Lots of them have escaped domestic violence, just like Maria. She packed her kids and a handful of belongings into her car and drove to us for help. Thanks to support like yours we’ve been able to help her in so many ways. We’ve been able to give the kids clothing. We’ve provided emergency food parcels. And most importantly we’ve found them a new place to call home. It’s humble, but it’s safe. Maria and her kids now can’t wait to share Christmas Day with us – their new-found family. Of course Santa will be on hand with presents for them too!

Kids like Maria’s still face challenges. Their situation has meant they’ve missed lots of school. That means they can’t read. Just imagine if your kids couldn’t read the Christmas card you wrote them. In 2019 I’m gearing-up to tackle that problem too. I want kids like this to do more than just survive, I want them to thrive!

The other day one of my homeless mates was talking about Christmas and said: “Love is all that matters”. He’s right! At Christmas time the love we show toward each other is the most important gift of all.

Without people like you and me lots of battlers would miss out. I’m sure you know there are more homeless people than ever. There are also more lonely people too. That means our big family is going to have to make room for even more needy people this Christmas. I know that together we can welcome them all and give them a Christmas Day to remember!

Under our marquee we’ll serve a traditional hot Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. There will be ham and turkey as well as decorations and bon-bons. Plus, there’ll be entertainment and lots of fun and laughter. But more than anything else there will be a sense of family. An atmosphere of loving kindness and support. There will be warm hearts and if needed, there will be shoulders to cry on too.

Great things happen when we support one another. Our wonderful Christmas Day lunch for the homeless and needy proves it! That’s why I’m asking you to support me. By donating to my Christmas Appeal you will help feed the hungry. You will also give comfort to the lonely. And you will bring joy and a better future to deserving children. So please give, knowing that when our big family pulls together Christmas miracles really do happen.

God bless
Rev. Bill Crews.

P.S. Together we can make Christmas miracles happen! We can feed the homeless and give comfort to the lonely. That’s why I’d be so grateful if you’d donate to my Christmas Appeal.

About the Author: Bill Crews

Rev. Bill Crews AM is a much-loved Australian who's given over 3 million meals to the hungry and taught thousands of underprivileged kids to read. He's been recognised by The Rotary Foundation and Ernst & Young. He is on the National Trust’s list of 100 “National Living Treasures”.