By Taylor Duckett
It was the beginning of the Christmas season, and there was excitement in the Jacobs household. The children Deborah, Naphtali, and Judah were busy making their Christmas list and counting down the days until Christmas. Their parents; however, were not so excited. They were grieved because as their children got older, they were getting further and further away from the true meaning of Christmas. They had grown up in the church so they knew who Jesus was but had lost their desire to have a relationship with Him as they entered high school because it wasn’t seen as the “cool” thing to do. The holiday was a way to cash in on the latest gadgets instead of celebrating Jesus. Their desire to keep up with their peers was causing them to become egocentric and selfish.
Naomi and Isaiah began thinking, how could they get their children to see that Christmas was about so much more than the material things. Isaiah came up with an idea: on Christmas Eve, after everyone had gone to sleep, that he was going to remove the gifts that were under the tree, including the ones for himself and Naomi, and hide them away until after his children learned the true meaning of Christmas. He and Naomi went through the steps for the Christmas as usual: they decorated the house, planned the menu, collected the children’s’ Christmas list, and even did some Christmas shopping.
Christmas day came and everyone went out to gather around the tree to open their gifts. To Deborah, Naphtali, and Judah’s surprise, there was nothing there. They began running through the house, searching everywhere because they knew that this had to be a joke. While they proceeded to look, Naomi and Isaiah sat patiently and waited for them to return to the living room. The kids finally returned and Naphtali asked his parents, “Have we been robbed?”
“No.”, Isaiah assured his son. “The gifts are safely tucked away.” Grabbing his wife’s hand he explained, “Your mother and I are not pleased with your attitudes concerning Christmas so today we’re going to learn the true meaning of it.”
After hearing this, the children looked even more dejected because the last thing they wanted was to be forced to learn, even if it was an important life lesson.
“All we have to do is pretend we like this and we’ll speed through the day.”, Deborah told her brothers.
“If they think we’re learning the lesson we’ll just get our presents after all this is over.” Judah added.
But they didn’t realize their parents were already one step ahead.
Their first stop was to a homeless shelter where they were going to serve Christmas dinner to the people. When the shelter opened, people came from everywhere and Deborah, Naphtali, and Judah were able to see what homelessness looked like. There were the elderly, there were those with families, and there were even kids who were by themselves only slightly older than they were. They were able to see that homelessness can happen to anyone. After serving the people, they were invited to sit and eat dinner. At first, they were reluctant to sit because of their superiority complex, but after prompting from their parents, they went and sat with a group of teenagers.
The teens, Levi, Daniel, and John, began sharing with them what it was like to be homeless. All three had been living on the streets for over a year and had become a family for one another.
“Outside the holidays, everyone ignores us and rarely stops to lift a helping hand.”, Daniel added.
“People step over us and treat us with contempt.”, John stated as he looked at the three siblings sitting across from him.
Deborah and Naphtali were upset because they felt as though they were being accused, even though they had done exactly what was described.
The stories of Levi, Daniel, and John really moved Judah and weighed heavily on his heart so he took off his coat, and gave it to Levi, whose coat was little more than rags. He then embraced the young men and gave them his number so that they could contact him if need be. As they were walking away, Deborah and Naphtali began yelling at Judah for what he had done.
“You’re going to get in trouble.”, Deborah said. “I can’t believe you gave them your number.”
“Now they’re going to call you to beg for your money.”, Naphtali stated.
Their parents, who were watching nearby, stepped in to stop Deborah and Naphtali from antagonizing Judah any further.
“Stop it right now.”, Naomi told her children. “You leave your brother alone.” Placing her hand on Judah’s shoulder she offered a smile. “You’ve done a great thing. Someone’s starting to see what Christmas is really about.” She kissed his forehead.
The next stop was a nursing home. The nursing home had invited people from the community to deliver gift baskets to the residents. After his experience at the homeless shelter, Judah was more than ready to help, Deborah and Naphtali went along because they knew that they had no choice. They went to deliver a basket to a woman named Miriam.
As they were turning to leave, she called out to them.
“Could you stay?”, the three siblings paused and looked at each other. “You just remind me so much of my family.”
She began telling them about her life. After her husband passed away, her children put her in a nursing home and never looked back. None of her children or grandchildren called or came to visit her; she hadn’t seen them in two years.
“I’ll come visit you.”, Deborah told Miriam. “I promise to come every weekend.”
Both women began crying, Miriam touched by Deborah’s kind gesture, and Deborah filled with compassion for Miriam’s situation. Everyone was touched by this exchange, except Naphtali who was just anxious to get the day over with.
After leaving the nursing home, they went to the hospital to visit the patients and help the staff deliver their Christmas gifts. They all split up and Naphtali decided to go to the pediatric unit. While walking around he noticed a room that was barren; there were no gifts, flowers, or any signs that someone was there. He decided to go in because he figured that the room was empty and that he would be able to hide out from his parents until it was time to leave. To his surprise, there was a young man named Luke lying in bed starring at the ceiling. Naphtali was startled and started to leave but Luke asked him to stay and so he did.
“What’s bothering you?”, Luke asked Naphtali.
“This has been the worst Christmas ever!”, he huffed. “First my parents hid my gifts and now they’re making me do community service. They just wanted to ruin it because they think I don’t know the true meaning of Christmas.”
“You should be grateful.”, Luke replied. “I didn’t get anything today, not even flowers. Once I was diagnosed with AIDS my family and friends abandoned me. Look at me, I’m only 18 and I can’t afford the necessary medicines since I was dropped from my family’s insurance policy. Not only do you have nice things and gifts, but most importantly you have a family who loves you.”
Naphtali was speechless and suddenly ran out of the room then out of the hospital, frantically searching for the nearest gift shop. All the while his mind was going in a million different directions. He could not believe that Luke had taken the time to listen to him complain about how horrible his Christmas had been when he was in hospital dying. He finally found the gift shop and proceeded to buy everything that a late teen would like: candy, comic books, flowers, and food. He then rushed back up to Luke’s room with all of the stuff.
“Is this really for me?”, Luke asked.
“Everyone should receive something for Christmas.”, Naphtali stated.
They then sat and talked until Naomi and Isaiah came to get him.
Before heading home, the family stopped at church. It was a testimony service and the family sat and listened to people testify about how God restored their health, faith, finances, and family. As the people testified the Holy Spirit was at work on Deborah, Naphtali, and Judah’s hearts. By the end of the service, all three had made the decision to reconcile and really commit to God, regardless of what their peers would think.
When they got home, Isaiah and Naomi sat the family down and asked them if they learned anything that day.
“It’s better to give than it is to receive.”, Deborah stated.
“There are people who have it so much worse than us.”, Naphtali added.
“So we should be grateful for what God has already blessed us with.”, Judah said.
“Dad, can we donate these?”, Naphtali asked.
“Are you guys sure?”, Isaiah asked and all three responded with nodding their heads vigorously.
They were sure and so they went back and gave their gifts to those who were less fortunate. When they returned home, though they knew there were no gifts waiting for them, they returned home with joy because they had learned that the greatest lesson to be learned is that loving and serving others, the way that Christ came and served us… is the true meaning of Christmas.
Contributing Writer, B.L.O.G. Magazine
Taylor Duckett is a student at the University of Miami majoring Economics and Legal Studies with a minor in Accounting and she is also a student at the University of the Supernatural Ministry with a concentration on Youth Ministry. She enjoys writing creatively in her spare time and writes for her college newspaper. Taylor is a woman who strives to glorify God in all that she does.