I have been dreading the arrival of the Christmas season for more than 6 months. As we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Jesus – I am also very aware that this is the first Christmas without my mom. Christmas was mom’s very favourite holiday. She loved to bake, decorate every room in the house, entertain and celebrate her Saviour’s birth. It’s a little hollow this year, as we don’t have her excitement about our time together. Yet, I can’t imagine how excited she is to be at the Birthday party!!
I knew that this year, I needed to have something new be a part of my Season. A way to make new traditions, and find new ways to share in the Holiday, creating memories outside of the traditions that mom was such an integral part of. But, time marches on, and planning looked like it wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to participate in something that would make a difference in more people’s world other than ours, or in the bank accounts of retailers. Little did I know that experience would be handed to me in a very real way. One of the things that we agreed to, was that we weren’t buying gifts for each other. It’s actually refreshing to not see a tree overwhelmed with paper and bows laying underneath it.
Six short weeks ago, I started a new job. I’m working for Prison Fellowship Canada as their Executive Administrator. My days are never the same, and it feels wonderful to be able to support those who do the day to day ministry with inmates and their families. Prison Fellowship may be better known to you through their Angel Tree program – either the Christmas or Camping branch of that, and I came on board at the office just as the Christmas program was swinging into high gear.
As part of the list of making this program be it’s best, Head Office sends out gifts to those children in communities where we don’t have individuals or churches to partner with us. You see, across Canada, from Coast – Coast – Coast, we have inmates request gifts for their children. Each year, that number is roughly 2500 children, aged 0-18. Our office sent out just over 100 gifts this year (a dramatically less number than last year thanks to generous people, and exceptional organizers).
After the applications were entered into our database, and the families matched to those who would purchase and send the gifts on the inmate’s behalf, I was asked to contact the homes of the remaining children. As happy I was to be able to help in the process, little did I know what was in store for me.
The phone calls began, many in very remote parts of our very large province, my phone calls were met with suprise, suspicion, and in most cases humility. One grandma that I called couldn’t believe that participating in this program wouldn’t cost her anything. A grandpa was so relieved to have gifts coming for his granddaughters, because he couldn’t get going having buried his wife in September. One very young mom, with 7 kids from 3 different partners (all requesting to be part of Angel Tree), started to cry when I told her who we were, and what we wanted to be doing. Just as we were on the phone, I had the joy of hearing her glee as Santa unexpected showed up at her door as well. How fun! I love that kind of thing, and I found my Christmas getting better and better.
Then, I had the joy of shopping for those gifts that had been requested or suggested. It’s been a long time since there have been littles in my family, and not have my own to buy for, I loved it! Then, just to make it better, I got to wrap them too. Really, it just was fantastic.
Here’s the gift. I had no idea that this kind of ministry, was just what my healing heart was in need of. The joy in the phone calls, the honour of praying for each child as I purchased and wrapped the gifts, and the knowledge that I had just a small part in making the whole process come together was more than anything under the tree could have brought me.
Mom would have loved to hear about all the experiences in those phone calls. I don’t know if she’s able to keep track of things down here, now that she’s a full time Worshipper in the Throne Room. But, I’m pretty sure if she knows what God has led me into – she’d be thrilled.
This year, I hope I’ve started a new tradition – loving on people, just because my workplace and I love Jesus. Such a gift!
May you and yours know the joy of selfless sharing just because you love Jesus this year. As we celebrate that moment when God broke into history, just to show us himself more fully – may you be blessed with the Peace that comes from know just how much He loves you.