With Thanksgiving over, it isn’t long until Christmas. Most people buckle down right away to doing or finishing their shopping. Some shop all year long, so it is just the finishing touches that need attention. Others don’t even start until after Thanksgiving. Then, there are those who wait until Christmas week or even Christmas Eve to shop.
Most of us have traditions we follow every year in preparation for the big day.
It has become a tradition for my friend and I to make a trip to Kentucky right after Thanksgiving. We have shopped all year – at garage sales. The results of our shopping are new and gently used toys suitable for newborns to 16-year-olds.
My family gift exchange at our Christmas dinner on Thanksgiving weekend is a new wrapped toy or game suitable for that same age group. These are opened, admired, and loaded in the car for their trip to Kentucky. That adds 20 or more additional new toys or games.
We take the collection to Henderson Settlement at Frakes, Ky., on the Tennessee border. Workers there spread the items throughout their thrift store daily. Grandparents then purchase these gifts at a tenth of retail cost. In this way, they can have gifts for their grandchildren which would otherwise be unaffordable on their very minimal incomes.
So this past week we drove a fully-loaded car to Kentucky. Since we both lived in Kentucky for over 20 years, it is like going home. Just before the Berea exits on I-75, we get our first view of the mountains where we lived and memories drift back as we finish the drive.
When we call to tell Henderson Settlement to expect us, we sometimes hear, “Oh, good. You’ns is the ones that always brings new stuff!” Emphasis on the “new.” They get lots of used toys, and stacks and stacks of used stuffed toys, but, just like you, they want to give new gifts!
When we are unloaded, we always spend some time in the thrift store hoping for opportunity to visit with the employees who are in ministry to the needy of the area. Their parting shot this year was, “We appreciate ya-all comin!’” Then, it’s time for the drive home. So that’s our traditional kick-off to Christmas. In fact, it’s the part we look forward to most!
This year, the blessings are to be doubled, as we have already made one trip but have a second one to do! Our church has provided many gifts to be taken.
A settlement in that same general region where we lived and worked has, for many years, presented a Christmas pageant in a rustic chapel on their grounds which originally were a settlement school. Since it is no longer a school but rather an environmental center, we wondered if the pageant was still done.
Inquiry provided a positive answer, so we were making plans to attend this year, since we have not seen it since being forced by unemployment to leave the area nearly 30 years ago. So the second toy trip fits in rather well. We will deliver the toys, stay overnight, worship with friends on Sunday morning, and see the pageant before our trip home.
In all of our Christmas traditions, let’s be sure to remember the true meaning of Christmas – to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Who came into the world as a baby to grow to manhood, to lead and teach and, ultimately, to die a horrible death on the cross shedding His blood in payment for our sins.
However we start the season, let’s be sure to honor the One whose birthday we celebrate!