When you’re a child, there aren’t many things you get excited for that compare to opening gifts at Christmastime. You wait all year long for the chance to get ready for bed, set out some milk and cookies, and sleep as little as possible so you can wake up and see all your new gifts that Santa brought you. When I think back to when I was young, I can hardly recall the actual gifts, even though I know I must have been thrilled the Christmases I got my pink Barbie Corvette, my Nintendo, or my shiny new bike. What I do remember though, is the emotion of it all. The enthusiasm.
I also remember periods during my childhood when times were really tough and Santa seemed to be experiencing some of the financial struggles we were. Toys and presents were not a necessity and we were functioning on need alone. There were years where the best my mother could manage was to make sure we had a roof over our heads and shoes on our feet. (Payless of course, there was none of those fancy L.A. gear high-tops in our household). Christmas gifts were a luxury that really didn’t fit into the budget. Of course that’s a hard thing to try and explain to kids. Not only did I not fully comprehend what living paycheck to paycheck really meant, I certainly didn’t grasp how that could effect my gift getting. I was okay with not having much, but a Christmas with no presents seemed devastating.
During one of these particularly hard years, our Church stepped in and played Santa. I don’t remember many of the details, just that I had a gift wrapped in shiny paper with my name on it. My gift was this fantastic tray of crayons that included just about every color imaginable. I'd never seen so many crayons in one place in my lifetime. I could now draw flowers in Dandelion, instead of just simply yellow. The memory of that gift has stuck with me for over 20 years. Recognizing how bad my memory is, this is testament to the importance of that gift in my life. Maybe it wasn't something I fully grasped as a young child, but on some level I knew enough to appreciate people I didn't know personally making sure my family had a holiday meal and gifts under our tree. That feeling of gratefulness has stuck with me all these years.
Of course I know that Christmas is not about giving and receiving gifts. Jesus wasn’t particularly concerned with my ability to take my coloring books to a whole other level. But I do know that people being loving and compassionate and choosing to help others out of the kindness of your heart is something that Jesus is quite fond of. This display of love goes a long way. I know this because I still remember those crayons. And so for those of you who take the time during the holiday season to drop off a toy at the toy drive, give a family a holiday meal, donate your time or your money, or whatever it is that you do, I just want to say thank you.
If you have the ability to go outside your inner circle just a little this holiday season, just know that what little you do, has the capacity to have a far greater impact. It can be a blessing that lasts far beyond Christmas morning.