When it comes to Christmas, there are so many wonderful traditions, customs and memories that we cherish. We enjoy spending time with family and friends, eating good food, and of course, exchanging gifts. We often don’t think twice about giving a present to our children or the many fun things we receive at Christmas time. Unfortunately, many children around the world have never received a Christmas present before. I don’t just mean the gift of toys. Many have never heard about the real gift, the real reason why we celebrate Christmas. Many have never heard about Jesus Christ and His incredible gift to us.
At the Edmonton Church of God we enjoy many special Christmas activities like singalongs, a ladies brunch and a children’s program for Christmas Eve. One thing that I am very passionate is Operation Christmas Child mission project.
It all started with our Sunday school children packing shoeboxes for children in need. These boxes are filled with hygiene products, school supplies, toys, clothing and many other gifts. Our Sunday school children have been packing these boxes for many years. About 5 years ago, we decided to make this a full church event, led by our youth. Every year we now collect monetary donations and physical items to fill shoeboxes. The work begins early in October when we purchase items bought with donations, and then sort and prepare them to be packed. We have had many donations, especially when working together with other congregations. We started with around 100 boxes a year and have had years in which we packed more than 300 boxes. Often I found myself thinking about the number and trying to pack more and more. But I caught myself being too concerned about the number of boxes rather than the meaning and opportunity behind these shoeboxes.
This isn’t about the box, or the hygiene items the kids may need, or the toys, or even about the children receiving their first Christmas present ever. This is about Jesus Christ and His love for them. When the shoeboxes get delivered to children in need, the joy is great. But what comes along with their delivery is a 12 lesson Bible program. The children are able to attend lessons where they hear about Jesus Christ and His loving sacrifice for us. The shoeboxes are used to reach the childrens’ hearts and many children commit their lives to Christ. God uses these children to spread the good news to their families and many also receive Christ.
Yes, we want to pack as many boxes as possible and give more children the opportunity of receiving a Christmas gift. This year especially, I want to pray for each box and the eternal impact it can have on the souls of these children. The items in this box will not last forever, but the impact of our love for the children and most of all, the great news they will hear about Jesus will have a greater impact still—an impact for eternity.
Melissa Mackesy, Edmonton (CA)