Sometimes what may seem a simple gift can impact a person for life.
It was our first Christmas in America and all through December the kids in my third-grade class eagerly talked about what they were hoping to get.
We watched in wonder as houses lit up with lights and Christmas trees popped up everywhere – everywhere that is except our empty two-bedroom apartment. Aside from the mattresses and dressers in our bedroom, there wasn’t much furniture.
My younger sister and I were not expecting Santa to visit our home. He seemed too good to be true, but we wished he were real.
My father had gone back to Peru to get my two older brothers, who had stayed behind. And so that first Christmas, it was just my Mom, aunt, sister and me.
Christmas programs seemed to abound all around us. We attended a service at a church two blocks away and gazed in wonder at the singing choir walking in with lit candles.
Our school put on a pageant and our class was assigned to sing The First Noel. As I tried memorizing the words, I had no idea what I was singing. My teacher had asked that we’d be dressed in Christmas clothing, but I did not even have a nice dress.
Then one evening in December, the doorbell rang. No one hardly came to visit us and we were hesitant to open the door. We peaked from behind our Mom as she opened it. There stood a young couple finely dressed in long winter coats, holding out beautifully wrapped presents.
I could hardly believe it. The presents were for my sister and me! As I looked up at them, I vaguely remembered meeting them at a park my aunt had taken us to earlier that fall. They had been there without any children just as they were now.
I don’t remember what all they said just that the receipts were inside in case we needed to return something.
They left as quickly as they came. With my aunt’s permission, we eagerly opened the boxes and out came the most beautiful dresses I’d ever seen — fit for a real princess. They sparkled with several layers of soft flowing material.
Looking back now, I can see that even then, Papa was telling us that we were created to be princesses — daughters of the King of kings.
My aunt looked at the price tag and told us we had to take them back and get something more practical and we did. The dress I got had a cream colored top with an evergreen long skirt, which I proudly wore to the pageant. I suppose my family used the remaining money for practical things like boots and gloves.
I will always remember the mysterious couple who went out of their way to buy something beautiful for an immigrant family they hardly knew. Their kind gesture filled my little heart with joy and a sense of being loved.
They were like messengers God sent to let us know that He notices even little girls who long for a Christmas dress.
They weren’t the only presents my sister and I received that first Christmas. Our neighbors brought over two stuffed animals and a teacher from school stopped by with a game. The nearby church also delivered a box full of food.
The first Noel was when God sent messengers – angels to tell the Good News — for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.
And He is still sending messengers to a hurting world to tell the Good News.
I have a family of my own, and my children have been blessed to awaken to Christmas presents under the tree every year. But what that the couple did for me and my sister has remained in my heart, and early on, I’ve sought ways to teach my kids that Christmas is not about receiving – as much fun as that is — but the joy of giving.
It’s a lesson we’re continuing to re-learn as we seek God to show us how we might be a G.I.F.T. (Give it forward today — something Ann Voskamp writes so powerfully about),and show love in action to a child, to a refugee family, a homeless person or whomever He may send our way.
Our Heavenly Father gave His all that first Christmas. Do we not dare do the same?