"Mommy, is Daddy coming home for Christmas?"
"No, Pet. Maybe next Christmas, but not this one."
"But why not, Mommy? Everyone says Christmas is family time. Can't Daddy come home?"
Mommy's shoulders drooped. I leaned forward from the arm of the chair where I sat, took her face in my chubby six-year-old hands and squeezed her cheeks. Then I saw the tears and didn't want to question her any more.
I knew the answer, anyway. Daddy was in prison. And he didn't want to see me. I wasn't sure what he'd done and I didn't care. I just knew after they took him away they came and took our house too, and that was why we were in the trailer park; why Mommy was getting thin and I was often hungry and didn't like the snow at Christmas.
Mom and I had cut a branch off a fir tree. We'd decorated it with coloured paper and cotton wool, but I knew there would be no presents under it. Not this Christmas.
And I was puzzled. "Mom, everyone sings about how Jesus came to us at Christmas but what difference does it make? Is he real? Even if Daddy couldn't come home, Jesus could at least give me a present?"
This story could end with the mother looking in despair at her hungry, needy son unable to answer with any hope, since she herself had none.
Or it could, like many true stories, end like this:
Mom looked past me and her eyes had no light. "I don't know, Pet, but if we just hang on"
A knock on the trailer door scared Mom. She opened it just a crack.
"Good morning. May we come in? We have something to share with you!"
Two nice ladies came and sat on the old sofa." We are from Angel Tree http://www.angeltree.org/angeltreehome and we have a letter here from your dad. It's good news."
Mom read aloud. "Darling Sarah and Pete. For many weeks I have attended meetings by Prison Fellowship http://www.angeltree.org/at-stories/stories-of-prisoners-families. Last week I surrendered my life to Jesus. I want you to know I love you and want to come and visit me. I wish I could tell you in person, Pete what a big boy you are. Well, I can't, but just know Jesus loves you and I love you and we both want you to have a special Christmas. These kind ladies have brought you a present from both of us, Jesus and me. Have a lovely Christmas and visit soon."
This time I didn't mind seeing Mommy cry. Everybody was crying, even me, but from happiness. Christmas was a time of presents and Jesus was real. He changed my dad's life and, later when the kind people from Angel Tree http://www.angeltree.org/angeltreehome visited lots more we learned how He didn't just come at Christmas, but died for our sins on a Cross. Then He changed our lives too.
Every year there are 1.7 million children http://www.prisonfellowship.org/new-this-week/stories/16412-17-million-reasons with a parent in prison. Angel Tree wants these children and families to experience the true meaning of Christmas, introducing them to the love of Jesus by linking with churches to bring Christmas presents, the gospel message and follow-up where necessary. If you want to know more about how you can get involved in this beautiful ministry, through prayer, donations or hands on, and make a happy ending for a child, please follow the links.
Dave Walker is a retired anesthesiologist who saw God respond in remarkable ways when he prayed for his patients in the Intensive Care Unit. He has written about this in his book God in the ICU. He lives in Cape Town. For more information please visit http://www.godintheicu.wordpress.com
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