Thousands of years ago, the advent of Jesus became the best Christmas present that will ever be gifted or received. For more than four centuries, believers had waited with baited breath for his advent, His coming.
Coming. There’s a warmth and anticipation in that word. Most of us are only familiar with the word advent at Christmas time. But, it’s the coming, the conclusion of longing, waiting, pining, hoping.
As a girl, Daddy’s advent every night was a special time. My sisters and I would wait at the end of our long, gravel driveway jockeying to be the first to spot his car. Then, as he turned toward the house, we would race alongside the car. “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home! Daddy, I have something to show you!”
Also when I was a girl, my family did Angel Tree every year that I can remember. We would visit Wal-Mart and pluck a paper angel from the branches, usually a girl about our age. Then we scoured the brightly colored shelves for gifts that matched “our” little girl’s needs. When we had packed the box to the brim, we took it to our church and stacked it among the hundreds of other shoeboxes filled by our friends’ families.
Back then, I didn’t think too much about the recipient of our gift. I didn’t really think about the gift that we couldn’t give them. The children of inmates who would open our Christmas presents might never celebrate their daddy’s advent. These children might wait night after night with no one coming home.
And I certainly didn’t have the capacity to wonder much about the incarcerated parents. They might never see the light in their children’s eyes as they opened Christmas presents, or feel the incomparable warmth of a child thrilled with their advent.
It’s been more than 20 years since I filled an Angel Tree shoebox with my sisters. My military husband and I have moved four times in our marriage and belonged to as many churches. But every single Christmas, my heart warms to see the Angel Tree in the foyer. My eyes water when the pastor announces the pending date for turning in our boxes.
I have been blessed with so many Advents. I have a wonderful father who came home to hug his daughters each night. I know the Savior whose Advent secured my eternity.
Angel Tree gives me the extended reach to love a child each Christmas and to show them the meaning of Christmas’ Advent. It gives me the opportunity to offer the anticipation of Christmas to a child missing their parent.
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