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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)

TITLE: Trees or Gifts? Shannon's Dilemma
By RuthAnn Cornelson


The light streaming in the window was unusually bright. The young woman looked up from the dough she kneaded and wondered at it. Her gaze turned to her young son who sat on the floor playing with some sticks he’d found beside the firewood. A small smile touched her lips, her heart stirred as it always did when she watched him. It was his birthday and she was making a sweet treat to celebrate. Her eyes shifted to meet the gaze of her husband who was adding wood to the fire. He smiled knowingly at her, then looked at their son, his eyes shining with love.

The knock at the door startled all three. The little boy scrambled to his father who scooped him up, handing him to his mother as he went to open the door. A greeting froze on his lips. He stared, astounded at what he saw. Three elegantly clad men stood before him. They clearly were not from this region and wealthier than anyone he had ever seen.

“We have come to see the child,” one pronounced. “We bring him gifts.” Barely knowing what he did, the young man opened the door.

Later the men presented the gifts they brought, expensive and rare things. Such things they would never have imagined to own. But what would they do with them? “Our child has no need of such things,” they told the men. “Please keep them. Give them to the poor who have greater need than we.”

The men were unmoved. “The poor will always be with us. But this child? We do not know. While he is with us we will pay him homage.” Years later their son would speak almost those same words when another worshipped at his feet, offering a similar priceless gift. The couple humbly accepted the gifts and bade the men farewell. Mary and Joseph could not imagine then that for centuries to come people would celebrate the birth of their son.

And so it was that more than 2,000 years later, Shannon O’Brien sat at her computer reading an email from her brother. His family would not be involved in the gift exchange this Christmas, he wrote. They were going to buy trees to be planted someplace overseas instead and he hoped the rest of the family would also. They weren’t giving gifts to anyone, even their own children.

Shannon felt a bit upset at the tree suggestion. We can buy a tree for some cause overseas at any time in the year. Why doesn’t he buy a tree in February or March? There are always worthy causes and needy people. Christmas is a special time. It only happens once a year. What is he thinking? Giving gifts at Christmas is an age-old tradition reminiscent of the gifts the wise men gave to Jesus and the gift God gave to the world in sending His son. Why would her brother want to take that out of Christmas? Why would he want to give up a family tradition for something he can do any time? She just didn’t get it. It just didn’t make sense.

She looked over at the fishing vest she’d planned to give him. She’d looked forward to seeing him open it. Beside the vest were two shoeboxes full of clothes and toys they were taking to the church to be sent to needy families. The children had so much fun picking the things out. They were eager to give them to kids who wouldn’t get any other presents. Christmas has a way of bringing out the generosity in people. Just look at all of the overflowing Toys For Tots boxes, and the food baskets the church prepares, and all the organizations collecting things to give away at Christmas.

Getting up from the computer Shannon picked up the vest and wrapped it in bright Christmas paper. Her brother was getting a gift from her whether he wanted one or not. Then she called her kids and they wrapped the shoe boxes to take to church the next day. Shannon smiled with anticipation thinking of their excitement on Christmas morning when they opened the presents she had tucked away in the closet. She wasn’t going to miss that for some tree. How’d that song go? “Children like to have a birthday party, the little baby Jesus was a kid you know.” We’re having a birthday party little brother, presents and all. We’ll donate a tree in March.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Catrina Bradley 11/21/08
The ending sure wasn't what I expected! I sympathize with your MC - if her brother had suggested a different charity, Toys for Tots maybe - I would have been disappointed at her choice. But she's right - planting trees at Christmas? :)
Gregory Kane11/22/08
It's an interesting comundrim, what to do about those more needy than ourselves at Christmas. We know that Mary and Joseph were poor when Jesus was born as they presented the poor person's offering at Jesus' dedication. Likewise Jesus when older relied on the generosity of various sponsors, notably a group of women. But did Mary and Joseph manage to claw their way out of poverty once they had settled in Bethlehem? I don't really know - I dare say their sudden flight to Egypt left them in dire need and that the gifts of the Magi came in very useful then.
At the end of the day Shannon chose well - the joy of giving is designed to be more meaningful and satisfying that the mere act of receiving.
Joanne Sher 11/25/08
Very thought-provoking, and a captivating read. I also didn't expect the end. Wasn't sure where it was going, but I liked it.