The following is an excerpt from Ruth Bell Graham’s 1965 talk at the Junior League Christmas Luncheon in Asheville, N.C.

homeplace tree

In a little town in Florida there was an unpretentious home for small, unwanted boys. Having little of this world’s goods, the kindly matron made it up to them the best way she knew how. She loved them, mothered them, fed them, spanked them, taught them to love God, to read their Bibles (those old enough to read, that is), to say their prayers. She laughed with them, listened sympathetically to their troubles (even while she stirred the soup), made her corrections few, her exhortations brief, and loved them some more.

One day – this is a true story – a well-to-do lady from a distant city came to see about adopting a boy. Everyone was pleased and happy for the fortunate little boy who was going to have such a fine home – such a successful man for a father and such a beautifully dressed, bejeweled and befurred lady for a mother.

The lady smiled down at the small boy and asked, “Do you have a bicycle?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well,” she promised, “we will buy you one. And have you roller skates?”

“An old pair,” he replied.

“We’ll buy you a lovely new pair. And tell me, have you a transistor radio?”

The boy looked puzzled. “I haven’t got any radio at all,” he said.

“Well, never mind, we’ll get you one.”

Still puzzled, the small boy studied her solemnly – then blurted: “Please, ma’am, if that’s all you’re going to give me, I’d rather stay here.”

This is the Christmas season – a time for the giving – and the receiving, of gifts. So it has been – since the Wise Men brought their gold and frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child.

How can we give what we do not have?

How can we purchase what is priceless?

For these are the gifts of the heart and of the spirit – timeless and eternal.

All I know is there are those I love who long for (and desperately need) these gifts this Christmas – and my spiritual bank account is zero and there is nothing in savings.

Do you feel that way? Or perhaps you don’t even care anymore. Perhaps love is dead. Perhaps the children are already beyond your influence. Perhaps there are no children. Something has happened and there is no real joy or meaning to life any more. The most you look for is some temporary form of escape.

You can’t give. There’s nothing left to give. In fact, there’s no one left to give to.

Listen.

What’s Christmas all about anyway?

Wasn’t there a death, an emptiness, a need? Wasn’t there a Love somewhere – infinite, eternal, unchangeable – a Love that gave His only Son?

That’s what Christmas is all about.

God coming to earth in the person of the Christ child to do for you and me what we could not possibly do for ourselves. He lived among us and shared our problems for thirty-three years. You haven’t a problem – and I haven’t a problem – that He doesn’t understand from close personal experience. He spent his entire life meeting human needs, ending it on a cross to deal once and for all with man’s greatest need – the sin problem. Just before returning to heaven the risen Christ gave us this glorious promise: “Lo, I am with you always.”

“Mommie, “ a small child asked one Christmas, “isn’t this Jesus’ birthday?”

“Yes,” replied the mother.

“Then why,” the child wondered, “why do we give presents to everybody else?”

Why?

Because the Christian world remembers – however confusedly, however commercially – that this is the Advent season, a time for joyous giving.

But we have confused the real gifts with the material ones. We have our price tags mixed.

Still the small child’s question is valid. What can we give, who have so little to offer?

Ourselves.

Remember – that’s what God loves so much. All He asks this Christmas is you. You with your failures, your sins, your problems, your fears. You.

This is Christmas – the real meaning of it.

God loving; searching; giving Himself – to us.

Man needing; receiving; giving himself – to God.

Redemptions’ glorious exchange of gifts! Without which we cannot live; without which we cannot give those we love anything of lasting value.

This is the meaning of Christmas – the wonder and glory of it.

This, too, I shall give.