Sarah sat silently, the celebration around her a sad reminder of Christmases past. Familiar faces bustled with energy, every eye twinkling with excitement as they chattered and teased each other, waiting impatiently for the bell to ring signaling the end of class and the start of Christmas break.
"Hey Sarah!" John's voice rang out above the clamor, as shrill as a fifth-grade boy can be. "Whatcha gettin' for Christmas?" He had a long list of expectations, and had shared it quite willingly around the room.
Sarah shrugged, and tried to pass it off. "I don't want to know, I want it to be a surprise." She knew all too well that Christmas would, once again this year, be virtually devoid of gifts. She tried to smile and tease him back."You get too much stuff anyway."
"Too much stuff! There ain't no such thing!" His exuberance seemed to add to her emptiness. She could remember that feeling though, that Christmas excitement of so long ago, from before. Before the trouble, before the arrest, before her dad was taken away.
The noise in the room suddenly surged as the bell rang, and twenty-some happy faces exploded into celebration and scurried out the door. For the others, this was a shining moment of the year, but for Sarah just another grim reminder of her sadness and sorrow.
She eased out of the building and down the long walk to home. The pretty lights, the glow of garland and tinsel, the excitement in the air - all but a bitter reflection of the past for her. Choking back tears, she tried in vain to stop the memories. Memories of her family all together, her dad bringing in the fresh green tree, shopping and wrapping gifts together, and sharing that glorious moment of all the bright packages stacked together around the bottom. Christmas was special then, and every memory reminded her once again of everything she would not have this year. Her mother worked long hours, barely able to supply the necessities much less any gifts. It would be another long, lonely holiday for them both.
A story like this may be the reality for up to 1.7 million children this year, children whose hearts and hopes have been shattered by the incarceration of a parent. Emotional and financial brokenness are the hardest to bear at the holidays - but we can help. Angel Tree, a ministry dedicated to linking children of inmates and their parents, can bridge the gap of love. Bringing Christmas presents to the children in the name of the parent, they carry the ultimate message of hope and good news - that they are loved both by their parent and by the Lord Jesus.
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