Much Better Than Christmas Day

January 4, 2018 by

The notes my children bring home from school usually inspire anxiety: either over their behavior or, much worse, over the costumes I’ll have to sew for the school play. But a few weeks ago my children bounced in the door waving a lengthy memorandum regarding “Shoe Boxes.” Spring Valley School would participate in Operation Christmas Child, a program sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse that sends Christmas presents to impoverished children in countries affected by war or natural disasters.

Each student was to collect enough presents to fill a shoe box. The girls raced to their bedroom, threw open the cupboards, and had soon amassed a pile of puzzles, books, games, and Play Doh. Their enthusiasm was contagious. My son drove his cars out of the parking lot under his bed and the pile grew. Next the dolls were retrieved from their beds and assembled in a line. I watched from the doorway, suppressing niggling feelings of possessiveness. What if the treasured heirloom Raggedy Ann, hand-sewn by their holocaust-surviving great grandmother and loved for three generations would be “shown the shoe box”? Should I play Scrooge and smother their Christmas joy?

A Group of Children Holding Christmas Presents
Image courtesy of Samaritan's Purse

My four-year-old impulsively grabbed the cherished doll she received this year for her birthday. However, the eight-year-old’s deliberations were much weightier: she is four years closer to that unfortunate stage of adulthood. “Why don’t you pack your baby?” asked the younger of the older. Still, the elder sister couldn’t quite bring herself to give up her beloved doll.

I collected and cleaned the toys, then set them aside to wait to be packaged. The children would have time to reconsider. One evening I found the four-year-old playing with her doll. “Just once more and then it will go to another little girl.”

The next evening, students and parents were invited to the gym to wrap the Shoe Boxes. My kids had picked out their best clothes for “Shoe Box Night” and showers have never been so speedy. I was not prepared for what I found when we arrived. The staff welcomed us at the doorway, playing O Come All Ye Faithful and other heartwarming carols on harmonica and accordion. Cinnamon-scented candles were burning on the window sills, excited children were racing about and assembling red and green cardboard Shoe Boxes. They were comparing gifts and exclaiming over each other’s newly knitted scarves and hats. Toys and gifts were traded around until every box was chock-a-block. Finally, the birthday doll was wrapped snuggly in a cozy blanket and fitted into the last box. Everybody agreed that she looked comfortable and ready for the long trip. Then we stacked our boxes in the center of the gym, forming a big red and green pyramid of Christmas joy, and circled up to sing. As the children caroled with gusto, they imagined boys and girls in refugee camps opening up their gifts. The expectation was tangible and it was at this moment the thought occurred to me, “It feels like Christmas Day!” quickly followed by, “This is much better than Christmas Day!”

It is important that children never see their parents becoming attached to an accumulation of material possessions.
—Eberhard Arnold

My kids, thank goodness, were not bringing home more toys and games for mom to stow in an already well-appointed house. On the contrary, they skipped all the way home and could not settle their brains for a long winter’s nap. “Hey, why are you still awake?” I asked my eldest. “I can’t stop counting all the things I have: food, a house, school, teachers, mom, dad, brothers, sisters, a warm bed…” I’ve experienced many years of rich and meaningful Christmas celebrations, some with presents, some without. But Shoe Box Night beat them all.

Eberhard Arnold writes, “Every present we give a child as his own tempts him to be un-childlike, to be loveless and unjust.…[he] loses his freedom to forget himself, loses the justice of love forever.” He challenges us parents to set the example: “It is important the children never see any of us becoming attached to an accumulation of clothes, books, or other articles. They should see that we are completely detached from the things people usually own.”

So how did I approach Christmas and this new year? Eberhard’s wife, Emmy Arnold, inspired me in her essay “Joy of Christmas.” She writes, “We all feel the impulse at this time to think of others, to show love to others, to be there for others…. It is the feeling of human solidarity, the exulting joy in one another, the certainty of mutual love.”


About the author


Jordanna Bazeley

Jordanna Bazeley lives at Danthonia Bruderhof in Australia with her husband, Johann, and their four children.

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  • Dear Pastor Loving greetings to you and your family and congregation in the Precious Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ I am so much excited of seeing of your ministries in various. Of course we are also having similar programes and project for slum children such as unpaid day care center and sunday school and VBS in every year. Therefore I would like to implore you if you have any sort of people those who can help by coming to teach and train the our youth to do such programes more effectively that would be a great blessings and wish to connect always with you and your congregation. God bless you all with HIs Mission Jagan and Daisy Mohan Missionary Pastor and founders

    Jagan Mohan