by Jennifer Duncan
When I was young, I heard an inspiring Christmas story, told from the perspective of a young mother. I have tried unsuccessfully to find a copy of this story and the name of the author. So here, I am reproducing it from memory, adapted for today, but as near to the original as possible.
“I tried to get my shopping done early that year, so that I could stretch the payments out over several months. I bought the iPads my two sons wanted, on sale in November! I bought toys for nieces and nephews, a beautiful new coat for my husband, and something extra-nice for the grandparents. As my list grew longer and longer, I was pleased that I had done so well budgeting time and money!
I even found time to attend the Community Thanksgiving Service, in the middle of the holiday bustle, and I dropped a ten dollar bill in the collection for the needy. I also donated several of the boys outgrown jeans and shirts, that were only a little worn. There were two nice coats they had outgrown too, but I decided to keep those to sell at my garage sale. I thought about Jesus’s command to be kind “to the least of these,” and I was pleased to have that obligation out of the way, too.
And so, everything was ready when the day came for our family gathering. The turkey was roasting; the pies were made, and the floor around the Christmas tree was piled high with gifts. There was even a nice coating of fresh snow that had fallen just that morning. I breathed a prayer of thanks, as I stepped out onto the porch to call my sons to come inside.
I was surprised to see them top the snowy hill and run toward home with a third young boy, dressed in jeans and a worn shirt, with not even a coat! As they neared the porch, all red-nosed and laughing, my son shouted, ‘Mom, can our new friend come inside with us? We want to show him what we get, when we open all those presents!’
I looked at the boy, and was struck now, not by his shabby clothes, but by his eyes—gentle, quiet eyes of darkest brown, with a curious light in them, of understanding and maturity. ‘Of course, he can come in with you boys,’ I answered finally, hoping they hadn’t noticed my staring.
As the three boys tramped in, I was suddenly embarrassed at the sight of the huge pile of presents, and the smell of dozens of delicious delicacies warming in the kitchen. This boy, I guessed, probably had never enjoyed such a celebration in his home. Yet, he didn’t seem the least bit ill-at-ease, as he met and talked with each family member. He sat with us while we opened our presents, simply watching, sharing the boys’ delight in all they received, admiring but never seeming to envy.
He rose to go just as we are finishing, and with a quiet voice declined to stay for the Christmas feast. ‘I’m going to go buy some groceries for my family,’ he said, ‘See, I have $10.00.’ He showed us the neatly folded bill he carried in his faded jeans. I thought, then, how curiously like the jeans and shirts I’d donated, his clothes looked, and the memory of the $10.00 bill I had dropped so casually in the collection plate flashed across my mind. Suddenly, something deep within me recognized the light in those lovely eyes…and I knew.
It was the Christ Child who visited my house that day, bearing the meager gifts I had given in His name. He had watched as we shared among ourselves, so much more than we had given Him. As I watched Him disappear across the snow, regret sweep over me like the cold December wind. ‘I could have at least given the coats,’ I thought, ‘or even bought new ones! I could have given so much more…if I’d planned ahead as I did for my family’s gifts.’ Instead, my puny gift had to stretch thin, to meet needs far beyond its means.
‘Next year…’ I promised. ‘Next year…I’ll put Him first on my gift list. Next year…I’ll do better.’
And now, ‘next year’ is here.”
Jennifer is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is mom to two grown (twin) sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and four granddaughters. Her late husband, John, pastored two churches in Barry County, Missouri, and one in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Jennifer serves in teaching, music and lay counseling through her church, Arnhart Baptist Church, Purdy, Missouri. She also enjoys leading retreats and Bible studies for women.