Green: Once upon a Christmas

Renae Green column

Aaaah, Christmas. Such a glorious time of year. Shopping malls laden with twinkling lights, luscious trees covered with shiny ornaments, festively wrapped gifts with voluptuous bows, Christmas carols playing over the buzz of shoppers . . . these are the telltale signs of Christmas. Except this year, we’ll do our shopping online. And we’ll add facemasks to the red and green scarves, gloves, and pom-pom beanies. The whole idea of a 2020 holiday season had me a little depressed until I remembered a very special Christmas, nearly 30 years ago.

My Sunday School class had decided to provide Christmas gifts for a needy family. I asked the nurse at the Houston school where I taught to refer us to someone, and we were saddened and shocked at the family we found. A single mother struggled to support 10 children. She worked two jobs, but it was barely enough.

They lived in a tiny, one-bedroom house with no heat. The boys slept on the living room floor; the girls slept with Mama in the bedroom. These children often went for days without bathing, because to them, being dirty was better than bathing in ice-cold water.

The mother carefully wrote down the name, age and size of each child. Her request for help was a humbling one, I’m sure. Yet she swallowed her pride in hopes that her children would have a decent Christmas.

Each couple in our class shopped for a different child. On the Sunday before Christmas, so many gifts were stacked against the walls, there was hardly room for people in our classroom. We each entered the room, eyes twinkling, exclaiming over the joy we’d received from shopping for “our” child.

My husband and I were elected to deliver the gifts. On Christmas Eve, we pulled into the driveway, and I’ll never forget those 10 young faces pressed against the window. “They’re here, Mama! They’re here!”

As the tired mother greeted us, gratitude poured from her eyes. “Thank you so much,” she whispered. When we opened the back of our mini-van, her eyes widened. “Timmy and Joseph! Come out here and help them!” Soon 10 children formed an assembly line, passing gift after gift and placing each under the modest tree.

“I think we need to open these tonight, Mama, or we won’t have room to sleep,” the boys urged.

“You’ll find room. You can wait until Christmas,” their mother replied, a smile lighting her eyes.

We received a hug and a thank-you from each child, and we left.

As we drove home, I thought of a similar Christmas, more than 2,000 years ago, when a young expectant mother and a hard-working father had no place to go. A Christmas when a kind innkeeper had no room in his inn, so he offered what he had – a stable. A Christmas when a tiny baby was born in that rugged barn, and lay sleeping in a lowly manger. There were no twinkling lights or sparkling trees, no festively wrapped gifts.

Oh, there were carols, but they weren’t playing over the loudspeakers in the shopping mall. They came from the voices of a thousand angels, singing praises to the newborn King of Kings.

Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.”