Sunday afternoons I usually clean out my purse. After particularly busy weeks, my purse is home to receipts, loose change, gum wrappers, notes to myself, grocery lists, mail, barrettes, hair ties, flash drives, sometimes even items of clothing and a granola bar or two. But what I discovered in my purse this afternoon gave me reason to pause.
There in the bottom, still awkwardly wrapped, lay a Christmas present one of my Sunday school students had given me last week. In the chaos that rules my classroom, I must have given her a rushed thank you and tossed it in my purse.
I carefully peeled back the layers of tape and paper to reveal a candy cane wrapped in pastel multi-colored yarn. So simple and sweet and so obviously made and wrapped with love by this student.
Now this particular student is quieter than quiet. She is a year older than the other kids, so keeps to herself, but dutifully answers a question if called upon. She is smart and knows the Bible, the Church and the prayers. She flashes the biggest, brightest smile and is my sanity in an otherwise insane classroom environment. But she obviously comes from a home with less . . . less material items at least. On most Sundays she huddles in a threadbare t-shirt, holey jeans and worn shoes.
I didn’t receive gifts from my other Sunday school students. That’s perfectly okay. I wasn’t expecting anything. I don’t expect anything. They shower me with unexpected hugs and compliments, pictures and stickers and one day even a homemade candle. Gifts are great scattered throughout the year and serve as a reminder of why I come back to teach each Sunday.
But, in this season of buying, giving, and getting with seeming disregard for restraint, my one Christmas gift came from a girl who may not have many of her own under the tree.
Once again, God’s message struck me like lightening, like a smack upside the head, like the weather radio blaring its warning at 2 a.m. I must miss His more subtle messages too often.
I wish I knew scripture better in order to quote it accurately, but I know there is a story of the peasant who gave all she had to the Church, while those who had so much gave just enough. I am humbled to be the recipient of what this child had – a gift of her own creation and making, wrapped with tape and a scrap of paper.
Her simple act of unselfish giving and kindness is the greatest gift I will receive this Christmas. I can only hope you have the privilege of receiving a similar gift in order to be reminded to give in the same fashion. That is the true spirit of Christmas.