Unwrapping Christmas Presents

I don’t think there is any experience in childhood quite like unwrapping Christmas presents after emptying a loaded stocking. Ripping through wrapping paper was one of my favorite sounds as a child, especially when my hands were doing the ripping.

And what was inside was always a treat. Shiny see-through plastic packaging, revealing a beautifully displayed toy on the inside (tightly tied to the back of the cardboard scenery). A new doll in a yellow dress. Or a Barbie with a jacuzzi that really bubbled up the water. Or a My Little Pony with diapers and a bottle. Those were the days.

Somewhere along the line, presents just lose something. I don’t know why. But sometime in between being a child and becoming an adult, that certain holiday sparkle vanished from the present ceremony. Somewhere along the line gift cards took over. Somewhere along the line wrapping paper and big puffy bows and nostalgic Christmas tags stopped being necessary.

What happened? What caused the adventure to end?

In Revelation, Jesus indites a church that they “have left” their “first love” (see Revelation 2:4, NASB).

Somewhere along the way, we can lose our first love (or sweetest, richest love) for Christ. Much like how Christmas presents become old hat, so do God’s presents to us. Much like how we take shortcuts by buying gift cards or not wrapping presents, we begin to take shortcuts in our thank-you’s to God. Our soliloquies and poems and love songs become polite, obligatory, punctual, and brief, “Thank you’s”. Our extravagant love for the Savior who gives us forgiveness, mercy, grace, and spiritual gifts becomes small. We forget the sparkle we had every time we used to open a gift from Him. The remarkable becomes nice. The miraculous becomes all right. The stunning work within us becomes okay.

Let’s rewind our lives and remember who we used to be, and who we have become by the gifts of Jesus. And let’s get back to opening up the presents He gives us with positively superb glee.

Day 8: “Angels we have heard on high”

I still remember Christmas as a kid.  Do you?

My dad was always off work around Christmas.  We’d put the color-coded wire tree branches in their color-coded slots and assemble the Christmas tree.  I’d put the ornaments on our tree that my grandmother gave me each year at Thanksgiving.

We’d drink hot chocolate, maybe mint hot chocolate from Cracker Barrel, and there was a good chance somebody had made dessert wrapped in plastic wrap on a paper plate or in a tin, sitting out on the counter waiting for somebody to notice it.  Under the tree, gifts would be covered in bright wrapping paper, sitting there waiting for somebody to open them.

My dad would read the Christmas story to us.  We’d empty our stocking and unveil our gifts.   We’d play new board games together, snack on treats mined from our stockings, and maybe go to my great aunt’s house to play a gag gift exchange or a friend’s house to sing hymns by candlelight.

Christmas was warm and bright and brimming over with gifts and specialness and family for me as a child.  But for 1,700,000 children in the U.S., Christmas is another day when their mom or dad is behind bars.

Angel Tree, a ministry of the late Chuck Colson, shares the love of the Christ of Christmas with children who have an incarcerated parent.  Angel Tree has 4 “branches” of service as they share the Good News with children and families:

Angel Tree PartyFor about $6.30, a child can receive a Christmas present through Angel Tree.  (For $100 and some change, 16 children can receive a present.)

You can give your time by taking an Angel Tree child with your youth group on church camping trips or by mentoring an Angel Tree child year round.  You can invite your church, small group, or work to sponsor Angel Tree children at Christmas time.

I know a present to a child whose parent is in prison isn’t going to give joy for very long.  But if that child meets Jesus because He used your generosity, the angels will be heard on high–all throughout Heaven.

Whoever has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his good deed. (Proverbs 19:17, GW)

Credibility of the Mission: Angel Tree is a part of Prison Fellowship, founded by Chuck Colson.  Prison Fellowship is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), a Better Business Bureau accredited charity, and a member of GuideStar and the Combined Federal Campaign.  For more information on their financial accountability, including financial statements, click here.  All donations are tax deductible as a qualified 501 (C) (3).