It was Christmas 1988 if I remember correctly. I challenged the kids at our church to learn a little more clearly what it was like to “give your best” like God did when He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus. I told them that we had the names of 3 very needy families with children who wouldn’t have any presents if we didn’t provide them. Part of the challenge however, was that they couldn’t go buy something new; they had to give something that was dear to their heart. The more that they wanted to learn about God’s love, the dearer the item had to be to them. And that if they absolutely wanted to learn the most from this Christmas giving opportunity, the item had to be the dearest thing that they owned. Oh, one final detail. Whatever was given couldn’t be replaced and if someone did replace it, the child couldn’t accept it. That was the challenge. Why? Because it wouldn’t really be giving.
To be honest I thought the kids would probably participate in a halfway manner. Well, I couldn’t have been more off base. The kids took the challenge seriously. Want to know who had the problem with the situation? That’s right, the parents and the grandparents. But that’s another subject for another day.
On the appointed day the kids brought their gifts to the church building and we headed out in a borrowed van. When we stopped at the first house (more like a shack) the kids were blown away. It was winter and very, very cold. There was a blanket where the front door should have been. Several old mattresses covered most of the floor. It was unlike anything the church kids had ever seen. About that time one of the kids said, “Mike, where’s their Christmas tree? ‘Cause if they don’t have one, we have to go get them one.” Now how do you say no to that? So the plan changed. We ran around to several of the kid’s homes and gathered some ornaments and lights and a small tree. The kids decorated it and felt like $10,000,000 when we left.
The next house was just as small, but very clean and no mattresses on the floor. It had a tiny tree with a few inexpensive bulbs on it. One of the younger girls had brought a fabulous doll house to give. I thought that when it came time to leave the gift she might have a problem, but what a smile; she was aglow.
The last stop was a rent house about the size of the house where I grew up on Hamilton Street here in Pampa. Rounding up the decorations had us running late and I was afraid that the mother and her little girl would have already returned. However, the house was still empty. We parked in the alley and ran to the back door which the mom had left open. It was now time for my daughter, Christina, to leave her gift. Her most prized possession was her one-and-only Cabbage Patch doll. She left it with a smile. I was proud and teary-eyed. We ran back to the van as we heard their old car drive up. We stopped at the stop sign beside the house and through a window got to see the little girl run to get the doll. What an AWESOME Christmas that was!
Let me leave you with this. Most children are filled with generosity and are GREAT givers. I think this is one of the things about children that caused Jesus to say, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Now to all the kids in that van from the Ontario Church of Christ back in 1988 and especially to my daughter, “Thanks for the lesson on generosity. It was burned into my heart and soul that day and it still regularly challenges me to be more generous. God bless each of you wherever you are.” God bless.
Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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