Remembering a hard thing that improved Christmas

Published 6:53 pm Saturday, December 12, 2020

It was the hard thing that made Christmas better.  A year many moons ago, we were in crisis.

Christmas was coming fast, but my beloved and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together.  We were so broke…we couldn’t even afford to pay attention.  With layaway at K-Mart we would be able to get our kids a few special presents.  But that was it.  Nothing for each other.

We would have to break it to our families.  There would be no exchanging gifts.

Email newsletter signup

So, we told them:  no drawing names, no trading presents.

It might seem trivial, but it wasn’t to us.  Honestly, it was embarrassing.  I was horrified.  Don’t get me wrong.  We were certainly blessed.  We never missed a meal!  Every single need was met by our generous Father in heaven!  It was just a tough time.

The gift-giving/not gift-giving scenario goes all the way back to the first Christmas.  The shepherds only brought themselves while the wise men gave gold, myrrh, and frankincense.

It’s funny when you don’t have gifts at Christmas that you focus on what’s important.  That hard time changed our Christmas.  It made it better!  When we weren’t shopping for presents we couldn’t afford, we had more time to spend together.  We didn’t have much under the tree so we wrapped up a baby doll in a blanket to represent the Gift of all Gifts-the newborn Messiah.

We loved Jesus.  Of course, we did.  He just hadn’t been the main thing for us at Christmas.  After that hard year, He became the main thing.  He deserves it!

If I’m honest, I was never a good gift-giver before that.  Finding a life-changing gift when we DID have Christmas money was tough.  What did people need?  What did they want?  And what color would that be?  Shopping was terribly stressful!

We survived that embarrassing no-gift holiday.  Though it was difficult, we grew tougher skin.  Time passed, situations changed, but the lesson stayed with us.  Years later, we still don’t do the big shopping thing.

For my children’s workers and jail ministry team, I buy items at the Dollar Tree and connect them to Bible verses or a Jesus quote.  A pair of inexpensive gloves might have a tag with “Jesus G-loves you!” or “God bless your hands and all that they do!”  A whisk or serving spoon might have: “I pray your heart will always be stirred by God’s Word.”  One year, in honor of my children’s helpers at church, I purchased chickens for a village through Samaritan’s Purse.

Recently, I’ve been making what I call “A Cup of Strength” to share with ladies in our church and community.  Using old mugs or teacups, I put 30 “Be strong” Bible verses in them.  The instructions are to tape the verses to their mirror or dashboard or carry in their pocket to memorize and share when possible.  (You can often find coffee cups/teacups at flea markets and antique stores for only 50 cents!)

This has been a year of difficulty and change.  Nothing is the same as before.  Businesses have closed, jobs lost, hours cut, and money is tighter than ever.  This may be the year to switch your focus from gifts to THE GIFT.  It might be the hard thing that makes your Christmas better, too!

Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor’s wife in Prestonsburg. Reach her at