It was late in the evening on Christmas Day. Ordinarily my daughter would be planning her strategy for the after-Christmas sales. Not this year. They would be leaving soon for the mission field and could only take two suitcases per person with them. They had spent months trimming their possessions to a bare minimum. This was not the time for a shopping spree.
My daughter loves Christmas. Her house is always decorated by November 1, and stays that way into January – one year February. By getting an early start, she is available to help decorate at the church or for friends. It frees up her time to make December less hectic.
When she was a teenager, God always gave us a Christmas mission – a simple thing we could do for others — like the family in our church who had three small children. We would load up the gifts, bring them to our house, and spend days wrapping them. On Christmas Eve the parents would call when their kids were finally — and soundly — asleep so that we could deliver the goods. So much fun for us!
One year it was the young woman who was an alcoholic. My daughter and I knew her from the real estate company where we had both worked part-time. She was a hard worker and pleasant to be with, but she had some problems. When she felt her drinking had gotten out of control, she left the job to get a handle on her life.
I cleaned out her desk, and my daughter and I took her personal items to her house. She invited us in and talked very openly about her situation. It gave us the perfect opportunity to talk to her about the Lord.
“God could never love me,” she said.
“Yes, He could,” I assured her, “and He does.”
“No, God could never love me.”
I shared my testimony. My life had been much like hers before I met Jesus. I thought it would serve to convince her of God’s great love and His power to change hearts and lives, but to no avail. She stuck to her guns.
“You don’t understand,” she insisted. “God could never love me.”
My gentle daughter spoke of her commitment to God and His unfailing kindness to her in very difficult circumstances. Still the woman clung to her misguided notion.
“You don’t know what I have done,” she asserted. “God could never love me.”
I spoke about God’s forgiveness and unconditional love – even in the midst of our sin, but she was not persuaded.
“God could never love me,” she repeated.
We prayed for her before we left. She was so sad and so lonely and so convinced that she was beyond redemption. I hoped that God heard our prayer and would soften her heart and that she would quit being so stubborn and open the door just enough to let him in.
I kept in touch with her – very brief conversations, sometimes only leaving a message — until her phone was disconnected. When she moved, I didn’t have a new address for her. I committed her to God’s hand, thinking I would never know what became of her.
Months later I received a call. She wanted to let me know that she had been wrong.
“God can love me!” she exclaimed.
For several years I was involved in ministry at the women’s and children’s rescue mission. I went once a month to teach the children while others from our church held a service for the women. Usually I had about ten in the class, but in December one year, there must have been twenty or twenty-five – newborn to seventeen years old.
My daughter was with me. Together we quickly put together a plan to get this bunch of rowdies calmed down enough so they could participate.
Imagine what they were going through. They had no home. They were living in a room with their mothers in a house full of mothers and children, not knowing what would happen next, and remembering the circumstances (mostly violent and terrifying) that had led them to this place. And it was almost Christmas.
Always their prayers were, “Dear God, that me and my family will have a place to stay.”
That meant a place of their own, not the Rescue Mission. They didn’t pray for clothes or toys or even money — just a place to stay — a place for just their family.
I took on the older children while my daughter oversaw the younger ones. She had the newborn in her arms and was bouncing a toddler on her hip. The others naturally gravitated to her and became calm little lambs.
After crafts and snacks, they settled down to listen to the Christmas story. I went to great lengths to describe the scene in the stable in Bethlehem at the birth of the Holy Child. Most American kids today have no idea what a manger is or how uncomfortable it must have been to be in a strange place going through tough times. But the children in attendance that night grasped the concept immediately and listened attentively. They wanted to know how things worked out for the baby and His family.
To our surprise the seventeen-year-old girl became indignant. She stood up. With one hand on her hip and the other gesticulating pointedly, her head moving from side to side, she began to protest.
“Why’d they put that little baby in that food box with the cows eatin’ out of it? They didn’t have no business doin’ that. He just a baby. That ain’t right. They shouldn’t be doin’ nothin’ like that. Did his mama know they was doin’ that to him? That ain’t right. Now that just ain’t right.”
She had never heard the story of Jesus’ birth. She was born in America, and in seventeen years no one had ever told her the story of Jesus’ birth. Our hearts were broken for her.
But she got it! She understand exactly the family’s humbled circumstances and wanted to step up and protect the child, to take His part, to identify with His suffering. She spoke the words going through the minds of almost every child in the room. They liked this baby. He was just like them. He was going through some stuff. His family needed a place to stay.
Of course, they really liked the part when the baby grew up and became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“Uh-huh. I know that’s right,” our teenager commented. “They change they tune. He ain’t no baby now. He da king!”
Yes, we had some fine times with our God-given Christmas missions. Now it was almost time for my daughter to live it out on a foreign field. But once again He gave her a mission.
“Since you want to hit the sales so bad, why don’t you do my after-Christmas shopping?” I proposed.
Ever since she was little, she was all about shopping. She loved it! The thrill of the hunt, the pretty clothes, the shiny things, the bargains! When she was three, I took her to the dressing room with me while I was trying on a basketful of clothes. She ooh-ed and ah-ed.
“Oh, that’s darlin’!” she ooh-ed.
“That’s just precious!” she ah-ed.
From that point on when I asked, “Do you want to go shopping?” she would jump up and down and squeal, “Go choppin’? Go choppin’?” And off we would go!
“So what do you think?” I offered. “You can go and find the bargains, and I’ll stay at your house and watch the kids. And take your husband with you (he’s a shopper, too). You two can make a day of it.”
I must admit I had an ulterior motive. I am not a shopper. I don’t enjoy it at all. But I do enjoy my grandchildren. My daughter thought I was making a sacrifice, but it was really a little horse trading. I thought I got the better deal. I knew I did.
“Mom, really? You would do that for me?”
Sometimes our grown children are clueless.
“Of course, honey. I’ll make out a list of people, and you select something you think they would like.”
“Really? You trust me that much?”
“Of course. You have excellent taste. Whatever you get will be perfect.”
“Oh, Mom! I’m so excited. We’ll need to get an early start. Some of the stores open at 6:00 am … “
And off she went! Planning her strategy! Visions of 75%-off dancing in her head! She spent $40, purchased gifts for several people, and got enough paper and ribbon to last me at least three years. And she was exhilarated! The thrill of the hunt, the pretty clothes, the shiny things, the bargains!
Now she gets to do that at marketplaces halfway around the world almost every day. And she is exhilarated!
”Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38