by Richie Lawry
The six-year-old boy stood shyly in line with the other boys and girls. It was his first Christmastime in the big city of Denver, and everything seemed exciting, wonderful, and a little bit scary. It had only been a short time since he, his mom, and his little sister moved from his grandparents’ house on the plains of eastern Colorado to live with his daddy, who had found work in Denver.
The little family lived in a motel room as Daddy struggled to save enough money to find a proper house for them to live in. At 6 years old and having grown up during the Depression, Duane knew that there was not much money for Christmas presents that year. But as he stood in line waiting to see Santa Claus, he knew what he would ask for. He wanted an electric train set. It was all he could think about. He spent hours imagining his train chugging around the track.
When it was his turn to see Santa, Duane timidly walked forward and sat on Santa’s lap. When Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas, Duane answered, “I want an electric train set.” After a moment of hesitation, Duane continued, “But I know that my Daddy can’t afford one, so a wind-up train would be okay.”
As they drove home, Daddy decided that no matter what happened, there would be an electric train under the tree. On Christmas Eve, Daddy set up the electric train in the little room after the kids were in bed. When morning came, he started the little train chugging around the tracks, blew the train whistle, and yelled, “Merry Christmas.”
That Christmas morning of 1940 is still a precious memory for Duane, even though he is now nearly 90 years old. From that Christmas morning until this day, the electric train has been one of his most prized possessions. When his children and grandchildren were growing up, they had fond memories of the little antique electric train running around the Christmas tree. The train was part of the family’s Christmas tradition.
Today, before writing this story, I called Duane to ensure I had the details correct. I asked him if he still put the train under the tree, and he told me it had been several years since the train had made its Christmas appearance. The family has gotten so large with grandkids and great-grandkids that there isn’t enough room in his small house. But as I was on the phone with him, he got his train out and sent me a photo. The top of the original box is no longer there, but the train is still in good condition in its original box.
When Duane’s daddy heard him ask Santa for an electric train all those years ago, I don’t imagine that he could have had any idea of the impact his decision to buy Duane an electric train for Christmas would have. For every Christmas for 80 years, his love for his son has been on display every Christmas.
The Bible tells us that “every good act of giving and every perfect gift are from above, coming down from the Father of all light.” James 1:17 (NCB)
Even though I understand that Christmas has become very commercialized, giving gifts is a way to become more like God, the ultimate gift giver. I know the danger of celebrating Christmas with cultural trappings and commercial glitz. But giving good gifts is a way we honor God, the giver of gifts.
Amy Carmichael, who spent her life as a Christian missionary in India, wrote, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” When you select Christmas gifts this year, make sure that love is the overriding reason for your gifts. The miracle of giving is that it ripples. Your one small gesture can affect hundreds. The smallest gift given with love and compassion is priceless.
God is the very best gift giver. His love is an extravagant gift to us. God promises us a gift more incredible than we can imagine or ask for. 2 Corinthians 9:15 (VOICE) describes Jesus this way; “Praise God for this incredible, unbelievable, indescribable gift!”
With the gift of Jesus and all the other large and small ways we are blessed in this life, God wants to instill in us reciprocal generosity. All we are, all we have, is a gift from God. He is our Provider, Sustainer, Creator, and Good Father. Gift-giving allows us to keep the circle of generosity flowing to people God has placed in our lives.
Gentle Reader, I know you have given good gifts at Christmastime. Jesus knows that, too. In Matthew 7:7-11 (VOICE), Jesus said, “Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you. All who ask receive. Those who seek, find what they seek. And he who knocks, will have the door opened. Think of it this way: if your son asked you for bread, would you give him a stone? Of course not—you would give him a loaf of bread. If your son asked for a fish, would you give him a snake? No, to be sure, you would give him a fish—the best fish you could find. So if you, who are sinful, know how to give your children good gifts, how much more so does your Father in heaven, who is perfect, know how to give great gifts to His children!”
God is the ultimate giver of good gifts. No matter how fantastic the best gift you open this Christmas is, it can’t compare to the gift of Jesus we celebrate at Christmas. In Romans 6:23 (KJV), the Bible tells us, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God has given you the best gift ever; how will you reciprocate? Who could you bless this Christmastime with your time or attention, with a gift, large or small? Find a way to be a gift to someone today.