Hope at the Angel Tree
by Dave Summers
At one church I served we had beautiful Christmas tradition. Every year in lobby of the church we’d put up good-sized Christmas tree. The tree was decorated, not so much with lights & ornaments but with paper, with tags cut out in the shape of Angels. Each tag had child’s first name on it, their age and 2or 3 presents they were requesting for Christmas. This was our “Angel Tree” where church members could adopt a child or two. These children came from some hard and painful situations, from families where a parent was incarcerated and there was little chance of much Christmas happening for them. Kids often end up paying for the sins and mistakes of their parents, but how tragic that is at Christmas.
So if you wanted to be an angel and take part in the Angel Tree giving, you took a tag, purchased & wrapped gifts for the child and brought them back on the appointed day. Kim always loved doing this and helping to make Christmas happen for a child who otherwise would not get much at the holiday. One year, there was a homeless man, George, who had been coming around the church regularly. One day, George was sitting outside the church and asked me about the Angel Tree and what we were doing. I explained how it worked. Then his eyes lit up. He got interested in this. To my great surprise, George pulled $40 out of his pocket, money I’m sure he had worked very hard to earn. Then he told me a bit of his story. He had lost his wife and child in an auto accident on Christmas some years before, and it derailed his life. The bottom fell out. He began drinking heavily. He lost his job and ended up homeless, drifting from place to place. He hated Christmas and the holiday season. But for the first time, in many years, he felt he could participate in Christmas and wanted to help a child. This year he decided he wanted to participate in the Angel Tree and contribute toward a gift for a child who would otherwise not have much Christmas. He was ready to celebrate Christmas again. George reminded me how God’s brings the gift of hope & new life to dead places and people whose hope is barely alive. God can wake up hope and a desire to participate in life, even in situations that seem hopeless and stuck, in pain and in the past.