By Meaghan Grider, National Director Saddleback Church
What was Christmas morning like for you as a child? Was it a happy day filled with laughter and gifts? Was it a difficult day filled with disappointment and tension? Perhaps it was somewhere in the middle or changed from year to year.
Many of us may have longed for the Christmas mornings we saw in movies and on TV or perhaps even in the homes around us. My Christmases had plenty of traditions, spending snowy days with my many cousins and aunts and uncles in a small house in Mequon, Wisconsin. This California girl always looked forward to my white Christmas. Until I got there and came face to face with some of the other “traditions.” My Dad, unaccustomed to fathering full time, would forget to buy my sister and my gifts every year. We had one or two presents my mom sent in our suitcases, and then we watched with pasted-on smiles as our cousins opened gift after gift after gift. After a few years of this, I remember wishing I was in one of their families instead of my own. I became overrun with guilt and shame for even thinking that.
But one year, one glorious year, I came downstairs to find gifts with MY name on it. Ice skates and socks and Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers. I still remember. I knew it was my aunt who signed my Dad’s name, but I also knew that my Dad was as happy as we were that we had presents to open. And I felt loved and seen not overlooked and forgotten.
That memory comes up for when my family shops for our chosen Angel Tree children at Christmas time. I wonder how the kids feel and what they struggle with. I pray for them and their parents and caretakers as I wrap their gifts. I pray for a reunited family for them, one day walking together in freedom and new life in Jesus. But I also pray just for a happy Christmas Day with gifts to open for their young hearts and minds to know that God sees and loves them. I pray for them to realize they are seen and not forgotten. Sometimes a gift is more than a gift. It is an expression of love and value. I pray that ALL of our Angel Tree kids around the country get to experience that this year.
“Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help. So, two good things happen as a result of your gifts—those in need are helped, and they overflow with thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 (TLB)