The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about giving. First it was thanks – giving! Now it’s the celebration of Christmas and the birth of God’s son. “God so loved the world (you and me!) That he GAVE his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christmas is about giving. First we celebrate God’s gift to us. It’s the central reality of this season. It’s not Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, a little drummer boy or the Grinch. It’s Jesus! It is God’s gift to us that inspires our gifts to others. We love only because he loved us first! Our giving finds its roots in God’s gift to us. As I was searching my data base for the true meaning of Christmas, I came across this story that really touched me. I’m thinking that it’s incredibly difficult to pass on the true meaning of Christmas amidst the glitz and glamour of the season. How do we keep the focus pure. This story helped me.

“The small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so. It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas—oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute, the gifts given in desperation. Knowing he felt that way, I decided to do something different. Our son Kevin was wrestling at the junior high school. Shortly before Christmas his team played a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, were a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team’s boys were wrestling without headgear. It was a luxury they obviously could not afford. We ended up walloping them. As each boy got up from the mat, he swaggered in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat. Mike shook his head sadly. “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. ‘They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.’

That afternoon I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed an envelope on the tree with a note telling Mike what I had done as my gift to him. His smile was the brightest thing that Christmas. Each Christmas after that, I sent Mike’s gift money to a different group—one year sending a group of youngsters with mental disabilities to a hockey game, another year giving a check to elderly brothers whose home had burned down the week before Christmas. We lost Mike to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was so wrapped up in grief that I barely got the tree up. But on Christmas Eve I placed an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.”