When Dave and I had only been married a year and a half, we moved to Fresno so that he could finish his Master's degree. We moved there with no jobs, no friends, no safety net, but we moved out of obedience to what we felt called to do. I got a job working for some wonderful people who have become lifelong friends. They treated their employees so well, and one Christmas, we were the recipients of their giving hearts.
With very little money, and knowing that no one outside of our youth group students would be coming over to our apartment, we decided to not get a Christmas tree. To be honest, there was a part of me that was very sad about that because no matter how hard Christmases had been in my single-parent home when growing up, we had always had a Christmas tree. It was part of the magic of the season when we could sit in a darkened living room and gaze at the beautiful lights; it provided a sense of peace, comfort, and wonder.
Well, that particular Christmas season, being so strapped for money and having made the decision to not get the tree, made us look at the whole Christmas tree issue in a little different light. There was a thought that came to me one evening as I drove by one of the many white, ply-wood huts on a corner lot filled with trees. It was a small thought, but it was as if a whole new revelation opened up to me. I thought, "What if every American gave up getting a Christmas tree for one year? If everyone would donate that money instead, how much money would that add up to? What could we do for the poor in our communities, or in other parts of the world, if we gave up this one thing for one year?" I never found out an answer to that question, because of course, it hasn't happened, and it won't happen anytime soon, I suppose. Really, I don't want to rob people of their trees and traditions, but does that come before giving to the poor?
That particular Christmas back in 1989, we did end up with a tree after all. My boss and his wife bought one and left it for us on our doorstep. For them, it was in their spirit of giving to others that they gave to us. That tree represented so much to me; it represented the fact that God does bless us through others, that he sees our wants, not just our needs, and that I need to be looking for ways to bless others. Their thoughtful and generous gift is still remembered, and it still prompts me to look for ways to bless others, especially if it is unexpected.
We always adopt Angel Tree children, or more recently a set of three siblings God has placed in our lives, to bless at the Christmas season and throughout the year. If it came between buying a tree for our home or being able to give to these kids, I'd skip the tree. Sure, my kids would miss the fun of hanging the blue lamb all together as the first ornament of Christmas, but I know God would use it to help show them the true meaning of what His gift to us was all about. We have been blessed enough to have a Christmas tree each year, but our tree always reminds me to make sure I'm giving to others outside of our home.
God has blessed us beyond measure, but when I saw this video this morning, it resonated with my soul. This is the same thought that I carry with me about giving up a Christmas tree for one year, but said it in a way that I think every American can understand. Please feel free to share this wherever you can. God is turning the tide of consumerism in our country, and sadly, the younger generation is grabbing on to this thought much faster than the older generations. What is God speaking to YOUR heart?
God, give us YOUR eyes and YOUR heart. We confess that we have been a self-centered and egotistical nation that has cared more for our own comfort and excess than for all of our brothers and sisters in need throughout this world, our nation, and our very own communities. O God, forgive us of this sin, and help us to live out your word that says that we "should also excel in this grace of giving." Amen.