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Frankie’s gift

Frankie's gift was a reminder of hope in a dark world

By Matt Ford
It was just after 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, the last day of school before the 2013 Christmas break. There was a knock on my front door. Knowing exactly who it was, I took a break from cleaning dishes to answer the door.

“Hi, Matt. Is Joe home? I have a Christmas gift I want to give him.”

“Hi, Frankie,” I said. “What do you mean you have a gift for Joe?”

“Yeah. I got two Christmas gifts at school today, and I want to give one of them to Joe.”

My throat choked as I instantly knew exactly what was going on. Frankie lives down the street from us, is in the same grade as my son, Josiah, and the two of them have become great friends. Frankie goes to an under-resourced, inner-city elementary school in the neighborhood.

Frankie didn’t offer details, but I knew that his class must have had a Christmas party and that Toys for Tots had donated wrapped gifts for the children at the school. Frankie had received two wrapped gifts and now stood in my living room with the gifts still wrapped wanting to give one to my son.

As I think back on this experience, several thoughts go through my mind. I am reminded of the story of the poor widow in Luke 21. Jesus holds her up as an example of great generosity despite the fact she only put in a couple of small coins while the rich flooded the offering bucket with rich gifts.

Frankie and this widow remind me that despite a Christian tradition that often says it is the rich, the privileged and the powerful who have something to offer to the poor, it is actually the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized who have something great to offer.
Frankie’s generosity also causes me to reflect a great deal on the world in which we live and the message of the Christmas story. I live in a neighborhood where I see despair, chaos, poverty, violence, homelessness, prostitution and darkness every day. And just this past week a close friend of mine lost a battle with cancer at age 40, leaving behind a wife and three young daughters. In the same week, my sister’s home burned down in a tragic fire, and my favorite football player was suspended for child abuse.

Turning on the daily news doesn’t lighten the mood much, with stories of racism, war, terrorism and scandal. In a world where everything around us seems to be in the endless process of death, decay and darkness, the message of Christmas offers a different story.

Christmas offers a better story—a story of hope. Despite the seeming reality that the world is getting darker and darker and darker, the message of Christmas reminds us that the opposite is actually happening. Just as our church lights another candle on the advent wreath every week leading up to Christmas Day, more and more light is bursting forth into our world with every day that passes.

When I lose sight of the light evident in our world—the light that is foundational to the Christmas story—I remember Frankie showing up and doing so much more than simply giving a gift to my son. And there are Frankies all around us, aren’t there? May we have eyes to see them.

Matt Ford is the youth pastor at North Fresno MB Church in Fresno, Calif.

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