“So what did you get for Christmas?” is the common question once the presents are opened and the dinner consumed. This year the question made me stop and think because my best gifts did not come wrapped up under the tree.
The smiles of delight I received when I gave out the presents so generously donated by supporters to the children in the local village schools were a wonderful gift. The overheard comments, “Wow, what a cute piggy!” and the sight of a little boy fiercely cuddling his toy dinosaur, brought happiness to my heart.
I was proud and delighted to see Juan smiling broadly, looking confident and greeting me with a firm handshake and kiss on the cheek. He has grown up so much in the past months, achieving excellent grades in his final year at school and shedding the shyness he had as a diffident teenager. I am glad he has a sponsor and is able to finish school. The determined glint in his eye brought me the satisfaction of a job well done.
Then there was the little girl, who has a sponsor, who gave me a (live) chicken to thank me for the support she has received this year. It is always gratifying to receive a thank-you, to know your efforts are appreciated. This thank-you was no exception.
All these gifts were special, unique and much appreciated. All of them inspire me to keep going for another year in doing what I can to help the children living around me. But even these were not the best present I received this Christmas.
At each school I visited I took out a Christmas stocking filled with some names of Jesus. The first we took out was “Saviour”. The gift I most need this and every Christmas is to have my sins forgiven. Jesus is the perfect gift because He came to save me from my sins. The second name we took out was “Emmanuel”, which means God with us. I also need this gift desperately. I need to know that no matter what lies ahead of me tomorrow, next month or next year, God is with me.
And so I carry that most precious gift of all with me into the New Year, with grateful thanks.