A Christmas Portrait

A few days ago, *my friend Lillie’s post* reminded me of this article I wrote a while back. I thought I’d share it with you here:


Aaaah, Christmas. Such a glorious time of year. Shopping malls laden with twinkling lights, luscious trees covered with shiny ornaments, festively wrapped gifts with voluptuous bows, Christmas carols playing over the buzz of shoppers . . . these are the tell-tale signs of Christmas.

A few years ago, however, I was confronted with a different picture of Christmas.

My Sunday School class had decided to provide Christmas gifts for a needy family. I asked the nurse at the Houston school where I was teaching to refer us to someone, and we were saddened and shocked at the family we found.

A single mother was struggling to support ten children. She worked two jobs, but it was barely enough. They lived in a tiny, one-bedroom house with no heat. The boys slept on the living room floor; the girls slept with Mama in the bedroom.

These children often went for days without bathing, because to them being dirty was better than bathing in ice-cold water.

The mother carefully wrote down the name, age and size of each child. Her request for help was a humbling one, I’m sure. Yet she swallowed her pride in hopes that her children would experience a decent Christmas.

Each couple in our class shopped for a different child. On the Sunday before Christmas, there was hardly room for people in our classroom – it was full to overflowing with gifts! We each entered the room with eyes twinkling, exclaiming over the joy we’d received from shopping for “our” child.

Mark and I were elected to deliver the gifts. On Christmas Eve, we pulled into the driveway, and I’ll never forget seeing those ten young faces pressed against the window of the small house. “They’re here, Mama! They’re here!” they called out with anticipation.

As the tired mother came out to greet us, gratitude poured from her eyes. “Thank you so much,” she whispered.

When we opened the back of our mini-van, her eyes widened. “Timmy! Joseph! Come out here and help them!” Soon all ten children formed an assembly line, passing gift after gift and placing them under the modest tree.

“I think we need to open these tonight, Mama! We won’t have any room to sleep!” the boys urged.

“You’ll find room! You can wait until Christmas!” exclaimed their mother with a smile.

We received a hug and a thank-you from each child, and we left.

As we drove home, I was reminded of a similar Christmas, more than 2,000 years ago, when a young expectant mother and a hard-working father had no place to go. A Christmas when a kind innkeeper had no room in his inn, so he offered what he had – a stable.

A Christmas when a tiny baby was born in that rugged stable, and lay sleeping in a lowly manger. There were no twinkling lights or sparkling trees. There were no festively wrapped gifts.

Oh, there were carols, but they weren’t playing over the loudspeakers in the shopping mall.

They came from the voices of a thousand angels, singing welcoming praises to the newborn King of Kings.

Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.”

7 Responses to A Christmas Portrait

  1. December 26, 2008 #

    Where’s the post? I’m eager to read it.

  2. December 26, 2008 #

    I absolutely love this post, Renae, and especially the verse at the end. I so appreciate the ability you have to make me (and others, too, I’m sure) FEEL what you are writing about. It is a gift straight from God. Thank you so much!

  3. December 26, 2008 #

    Very odd … I don’t see the post here, but when it appeared in my feed reader, it’s all there!

    It’s a great story and a great memory.

  4. December 27, 2008 #

    Thanks for sharing a great article and reminder, Renae! I just sat down to catch up on your bloggings of the past week or so after a lot of Christmas hustle and bustle and a quick trip to Florida. I’ve missed you!

  5. December 29, 2008 #

    Thanks, all of you. We just got back into town after few days, and it was an internet detox for me! But here I am again. 😉

    Lillie, that is strange that you can’t see the post. I can see it, and Pam and Jeanette are able to see it as well. Who knows? (Insert Twilight Zone music here . . . )

    I hope and pray you all had a wonderful Christmas. Blessings to each of you!

  6. December 29, 2008 #

    Hi Renae, This is such an amazing story. I know you are a creative writer but this reads as if a true story — or at least, based on truth. It is just so incredible. My thoughts always go the step further … if a true story, did you ever hear from this family again?

  7. December 29, 2008 #

    Hi Carol-Ann. Yes, this is a true story. It took place Christmas of ’91, the first year Mark and I were married. We moved away from Houston the following spring, and no, I did not keep up with the family. I pray they are doing well.

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