Monday, August 24, 2009

Christmas Comes Early

Here's a true story I wrote for the Christmas donation drive at our church that is already in its early planning stages.

Christmas was just around the corner, but not all were joyful.

While most families were busy writing letters to Santa, wrapping presents to place under a twinkling tree, and decorating homes with evergreen wreaths, candy canes and festive bows, Thomas and Shirley Brown were wondering where their four children would lie down to sleep on Christmas Eve.

The year had been a devastating one. He lost his job first and then she did. Every job search ended with the same polite rejection: Thanks but no thanks. The family savings account was soon depleted and all other resources became exhausted quickly thereafter. And then one day the couple’s worst fears were realized – news came that they had lost their home. They had only a short while left to vacate the house where they had hoped to share one more Christmas morning.

In a short span of only a few months, the Browns went from two gainfully employed parents of four to jobless, homeless, and practically hopeless.

The parents had already explained to their children, ages three to twelve years old, that Christmas morning was going to be very different this time around. All were prepared to find fewer gifts under the tree, if any. If there was even to be a tree. That couldn’t be decided until the family knew where they would wake up December 25th.

That question was faithfully answered one day when Thomas made his way to a Christian ministry seeking help for his family. Entering the Norcross Cooperative Ministry, he sat down and shared their story, he and his wife’s fears, and his tears.

The staff at the Ministry listened, and quickly, through them, the heart of Christ poured out onto the Brown family. They were provided with temporary housing, food, a means to purchase the basic necessities, and an abundance of love and support. That evening the Browns were overcome with relief and agreed that their prayers had been answered. Yet little did they know that more love was about to come their way.

As it turned out, the Ministry had been thinking about the children’s Christmas morning too. They set about finding others to sponsor the Brown family for Christmas, making sure the hardship the parents had endured until then would not crush the joy of Christmas for the children.

Soon people began to respond to the Ministry’s request, bringing gifts wrapped and labeled with the Brown’s children’s names. Some people brought one gift, others brought several. Some gifts were just what the children needed. Other gifts were just what most children their ages dreamed of owning.

Shirley had to make two trips in order to take home all the Christmas gifts that had been donated for her children.

As she hid the gifts from view, she thought not of the abundance of presents her children would eagerly tear open in a few days, but of the abundance of love and compassion that had been shown to them by the Ministry and the people who support it. When the last box had been put away, she thanked God for His blessings, and then thought of something she knew she must do Christmas morning. There was something she needed to tell her children.

On Christmas morning the children sprung out of bed and, wide-eyed with surprise when they saw what was beneath their tree, ripped through wrapping paper to find new clothing, books, toys and games. “A bike!” the youngest shrieked, “A new coat!” the only daughter marveled. Quickly the room was filled with the sounds of a train set, video games and cheerful words of disbelief about how wonderful Christmas had turned out after all.

That was when Shirley pulled her children near and told them of the generosity that others had bestowed upon them. She pointed to their gifts and explained that the spirit of Christmas isn’t about receiving, but about giving. She explained that giving at Christmas is a symbol of the love that Jesus Christ first extended to all of us through his work on the cross.

This year as the season approaches again the Brown family knows where they will wake up Christmas morning. And the children are already thinking about what gifts they will donate to others through the Norcross Cooperative Ministry.

In the Brown family, the Spirit of Christmas is alive and well.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Thank you, Greg. A wonderful story.