On a cold December day in Georgia, my sisters and I were giddy with excitement. We were no longer little girls, but our anticipation for Christmas morning was mounting. Presents had already been purchased and hidden. We’d been singing carols for days and creating Christmas crafts. Soon we’d get a tree from a local farm and then we’d take turns decorating it with tinsel and popcorn garland, handmade ornaments and colorful lights.
After dinner that evening, our Dad came into the den where the three of us were watching TV.
“Girls,” he said, with a serious look on his face.
He gathered us around the coffee table to have a little talk.
“Things have been tight this year,” he began, “and we don’t have a lot of money for a Christmas tree.”
I sat there staring at him, trying to imagine what he would say next. Would he tell us that there would be no Christmas tree that year? How could we have Christmas without a tree? Where would we put all the presents?
Before my mind wondered any further, he reached in his back pocket and pulled out a $5 bill from his wallet. He laid it on the table in front of us.
“This is all we have for a tree. So let’s ask God to provide for us.”
We joined hands in a small circle around that $5 lying on the coffee table and listened to our Dad pray. Then the search was on.
My older sister stayed home with our Mom while my younger sister and I bundled up and joined Dad in the station wagon. Once we arrived at the tree farm, we walked through rows and rows of freshly cut firs and spruces, drinking in their glorious green smell. We traipsed down an aisle, looking at every tree until Dad shook his head after looking at the price tag. Every tree we saw was more than we could afford. Undaunted, we continued our search until we came upon a tree that was a little smaller than the others but just as pretty. We saw no tag.
“What about this one Dad?” we queried.
I stared at my sister, wondering if this was our tree. Dad walked over to chat with the man in charge.
“How much is this tree?” he asked.
The man looked at the tree and said, “Uh, I can let you have that one for $5.”
We had found our tree! We celebrated while Dad told the guy he would take it and handed him the $5 bill. The same $5 bill we had prayed over. He tied our newfound treasure onto the top of the car and we chatted and sang all the way home. Once we arrived, we burst through the door with the smell of Mom’s hot chocolate in the air and recounted every detail of our adventure.
I don’t remember what toys I got for Christmas that year. But my Father gave me a gift that night that I will never forget. His simple Christmas prayer taught me to look to my Heavenly Father for everything. He showed me his vulnerability as the provider for our family and how that vulnerability is both cherished and rewarded by God when coupled with trust. He showed me another side of God I hadn’t seen before ~ that if something matters to us, then it matters to God. The same God that created the universe and millions of trees, cared enough to save one just for us.
That prayer was by far the best Christmas present my Father has ever given me. It opened my eyes to more of the Divine and it molded my young understanding of how my Heavenly Father sees me. And unlike a toy that wears out after years of use, this gift has stood the test of time. Thanks Dad.