Friday, December 25, 2009

The following quote and story really inspired me...and reminded me of the fun we had last year with our Advent HOPE Christmas party, raising money for orphans and the needy over seas. Unfortunately this year I haven't had time to do much of anything for anyone, not even my family, let alone the needy. However, I am reminded, "What I do isn't really that important! For truly CHRIST is the REAL GIFT of the season!" He's given to us so we can give to others...but that gift may not always be "tangible." The gift He has given us, we cannot begin to comprehend or repay!!

Nevertheless, here's some inspiring thoughts on "giving" and how this commercialized holiday might could be more profitably spent:

"Let your Christmas tree be dedicated to God, and let its boughs be laden with offerings for Christ. Do not give as though it were a task, doling out your donations with a niggardly hand. Good works are no drudgery. In giving to us his Son, God has poured out to us all Heaven in one gift. Let us with an overflowing heart, with gratitude and joy because of Christ's matchless love, bring him our offerings. Teach your children by your own example the blessedness of doing for Christ. Train them to go on errands of love for him, and in all their gifts to remember the gracious Giver. If there are any who are in need of food or comfortable clothing, they should be remembered; we are not to neglect Christ in the person of his saints. But let us be constantly seeking to make God and his cause first in our thoughts and plans.

Many hardly, know as yet what self-denial is, or what it is to suffer for the truth's sake; but none will enter Heaven without making a sacrifice. Yet self-denial will not make us joyless; it will not cast a shadow upon our holidays. It is not what we have, not the abundance of the things of this life, that will make us happy. Our happiness depends upon the relation we sustain to God. An approving conscience, a contented spirit, sweet communion with Jesus, will make us the happiest beings in the world." {ST, December 8, 1887 par. 18}

A Christmas Story

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas---oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it... overspending...the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike.

The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented 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 was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, 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."

Mike loved kids-all kids-and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. 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 the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition---one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May we all remember Christ, and "give" in a Christ-like manner. After all, he is the reason for the season, and the true "Christmas spirit" this year and always.

Merry Christmas Friends!!! And remember...we shouldn't just be giving at Christmas...Giving should be our WAY of LIFE...all year long!!!

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