Centuries ago gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were brought to the Christ Child by wise men that followed the Star of Bethlehem. Often referred to as the Magi, these men felt it important to bring gifts to herald the birth of the Messiah.
So began the tradition that we celebrate as Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the long awaited King of Kings.
Now, in a new millennia, people are still compelled to offer gifts in His name. Those gifts are meant to represent the hand of friendship, love and brotherhood in the same way that those first gifts were brought to that humble manger in Bethlehem.
Because of Operation Christmas Child, the Word of Jesus continues to be proclaimed throughout the world, even into civilizations where there is often little to celebrate.
For the children who are recipients of these simple gifts, another world is opened. Often, for the first time, they come to realize that there are people who care about them.
Why gifts? Why not just bring them the Word of God? Are gifts really necessary?
Were they necessary that first Christmas? No, Jesus and his parents probably had no real need of frankincense and myrrh, and although gold has always been recognized as very valuable, it was not required as entrance into His presence — it was offered as a token of respect and honor in that case.
In the case of Operation Christmas Child, the gifts are just as important. They open the eyes and hearts of children who are at a tender age. Most of them have never had a gift of any kind, so it makes an impression, and it opens a door…
This year the program will donate its hundred-millionth shoebox. Because it represents the efforts of thousands of volunteers, it will be a special milestone in the history of the “Shoebox” ministry. This small box brings with it not only toys and games and baseball caps and the like, but the Word of God, which has now reached one hundred-million young children, and through them, their parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors.
To mark this achievement, Samaritan’s Purse, which sponsors Operation Christmas Child, followed the journey of one particular shoebox, wrapped and packed by children from a London school, to an eight-year-old boy in Ecuador, thousands of miles away in South America.
According to the official Operation Christmas Child website, the journey of this particular shoebox began last September, when Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham, helped pupils from Christ Church Primary School in Spitalfields to wrap and pack their shoeboxes. After Franklin spoke to the pupils about the impact these gifts have to children around the world, they presented him with a gift-filled shoebox wrapped in “Union Flag” wrapping paper and asked him to give it to a child who most needed it at Christmas.
Franklin responded, “Thank you so much. I will definitely personally deliver this. I know they will be so blessed by not only this box but the prayer you've sent with this.”
Franklin later fulfilled that promise when he traveled to Ecuador and delivered this special gift, in person, to an eight-year-old boy named Kevin in a very needy part of Quito.
This was a special occasion, indeed, but in reality, there are millions of other children who have yet to receive a gift like this. Sometimes, when word spreads that the gifts are on their way, many children make their way to distribution points in hopes of receiving one of the boxes. Most of the time no one in a village is left out, but sometimes, there are children left disappointed because there were not enough boxes to go around.
This year, and every year, Operation Christmas Child volunteers will collect items to go into as many shoeboxes as they can gather. The hope of all of them is that no child is left without a gift, so they all try their best to pack “just one more box.”
That extra box might come from you. It might reach a child who will devote his/her life to serving Christ because of the lesson of the spirit of giving that originated with the Magi of long ago.
Of course, the greatest gift was bestowed by God on mankind — the gift of His only begotten Son to the whole world. Because that Gift was always intended to be shared, Operation Christmas Child continues its mission.
Locally, you will see a trucking container one block south of the Cullman County Courthouse. On that container is a sign indicating that it is the goal of this area's Operation Christmas Child volunteers to fill the entire container with shoeboxes. If you would like to be a part of this ministry, of helping to fill this container from top to bottom and side to side, please join us today!
Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God's love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
"Go and do likewise"... Luke 10:37d
National collection week this year is Nov. 18-25. For additional information, contact Dave Ozment, at 256-620-8034, or Judy Taylor, at 256-739-0505, or visit the web site at samaritainspurse.org/occ.
A Little History on Gift-Giving: In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? For we observed His star at its rising, and have come to pay Him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.