A Stranger’s Child

    It's Christmas Eve, and tonight, many of us will be singing carols at church, wrapping a few final gifts, and tucking excited children into bed. In the midst of the holiday madness, you may have forgotten those gifts you bought for a stranger's child. A few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of you took the time to pluck an angel ornament off a Christmas tree -- perhaps at the mall, or maybe at church -- and you bought gifts for the children of prisoners: sweaters and socks, dolls and drums. For eighteen years, I've asked Americans to support Angel Tree, Prison Fellowship's gift-giving program for the children of inmates. These gifts are given in the name of the child's parent -- a reminder that mom or dad, though far away in prison -- still loves him. And volunteers share the Gospel with every child, telling them -- sometimes for the first time -- of God's love for them. Volunteers deliver the gifts, and you may wonder: What kind of people become Angel Tree volunteers? Well, they're people like Ashley, a little girl whose father was once a dangerous criminal. Now a Christian, Ashley's father takes her along when he delivers Angel Tree gifts to a tough Detroit neighborhood he once terrorized. A few years ago Ashley marched into a home and handed a box to a child. "This is for you," she announced. "It's from your daddy and Jesus." Before leaving, Ashley and her father prayed with the family -- and the shabby little room was filled with the reality of Christ. In New Orleans, a handful of Angel Tree volunteers wear black leather, long hair, and tattoos. They're Christian bikers who deliver gifts on their motorcycles. When they roar down inner-city streets, even drug dealers jump back in alarm. Some of my all-time favorite volunteers were five inmates from a Las Vegas prison. A few years ago, these men raised money for Angel Tree, and a prison escort drove them to a local Wal-Mart. They began searching for the hottest toy that year: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. There was just one left. The men grabbed it and continued shopping. A few minutes later, someone stole that Power Ranger out of their cart. The inmates were outraged. "Nobody steals from us!" they declared. With the store manager's help, they recovered the toy. And then the manager warned the inmates to keep a sharp eye on their possessions. Why? Because there were so many criminals hanging around the store at Christmas. Angel Tree volunteers are ordinary people -- homemakers, grandparents, collegians, kids -- anyone who serves Christ by serving the children he loves. Children who live in crumbling apartments and trailer parks, in shelters and even in cars. Children who are born with nothing, just like the Christ Child born in a manger 2,000 years ago -- in that case, a Child who survived flight into Egypt in part because of gifts given him by strangers. Tonight, as you sit in the warm glow of your own Christmas tree, please pray for these Christmas angels and their families, that they may know the love and the transforming power of Jesus Christ. And while the parcels have already been sent from Prison Fellowship to what we call "unclaimed angels" -- that is, kids whose names were submitted too late for any church to reach them -- you can, even tonight, help defray the cost. A box of toys, books, and Gospel literature costs only $25. If you can, call us toll-free with your "unclaimed angel" gift at 1-800-55-ANGEL. Or donate online. I want to thank everyone who has ever given a gift through Angel Tree or ever served as a volunteer. Only when we reach heaven will we fully know the results of a few moments of shopping for a stranger's child. Again, thank you and a very Merry Christmas.


Chuck Colson


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