By Bishop Jonathan Holston
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” —Luke 2: 10-11
Our son, Karlton, was a student at the Euharlee Elementary School in Rockmart, Ga. His teacher Mrs. Brown was one of his favorites. At the beginning of the year, I volunteered as one of the “class parents.” Truly, it gave me an interesting perspective, as well as an opportunity to spend time with my son, his teacher and classmates. It was during a special time that students brought gifts to say “thank you” to their teacher. Karlton was no different. Being a child of educators, I was familiar with the type of presents often given. As matter of fact, some of these gifts grace the attic at my parents’ home in Athens.
As a child, I said to myself that when I had children, I would put better thought into my child’s gift to their teacher. Yet, on this day, I found myself hurried and forgot the promise made years ago. Reminded by Karlton on a need for a gift, I frantically looked from closet to closet to find something that could pass for a present. Arriving at school with Karlton, he leaped from the car and rushed in with a beautifully wrapped package from the “I don’t need it—you can have it” corner of the closet. I promised to do better next year!
As I stood in the front of the classroom with Mrs. Brown, each of the children brought their gifts wrapped and sporting exquisite bows. In the hubbub of activity, a student walked towards Mrs. Brown with a book in his hands. It was worn tattered, similar to clothes he was wearing. She thanked him, gave him a hug and placed the book on top of this humongous pile of gifts.
While the children were eating lunch, we began to move this large stack of “thank you’s.” The book placed on top, fell to the floor and opened to the inside cover exposing writing for all to see. As Mrs. Brown read the words, I noticed that tears began to well in her eyes. Giving the book to me, I began to read words written by this youngster’s mother that were profound. She simply wrote,
“Dear Mrs. Brown, We don’t have much but my son wanted to give you a gift. He appreciates that you have taught him to read. This is his favorite book and he gives it to you as a gift to teach others.”
Mrs. Brown exclaimed, “This is the best gift ever!”
Recently, the Connectional Ministries office shared with me letters from the Bookman Road Elementary School in Elgin. The package was filled with “thank you’s” from children who had received books collected during our Million Book Effort. The comments were astounding. Here are two for your consideration, namely:
“Dear United Methodist Church, Thank you for all the books you have given us. We are so thankful for what you have done for Bookman Road Elementary School. From: Wesley”
“Thank you members of (the) United Methodist Church for donating books to our school … as you might know, we are a school of readers. I love to read! One Happy Student, Gaiana”
I believe this might qualify as “the best gift ever” as well.
As we move through the days of Advent and Christmas, we come to the realization that Christmas has so many gifts aplenty. Yet, the best gift of Christmas is the one who makes all gifts possible—it is God’s gift of the Christ child. Through the gift of his only son, Jesus, God sends us his heart to show us how much he loves us. Then the Good News gets even better when we discover that Jesus—God’s gift to us—shows all of us how he wants us to love one another. Now, that is “the best gift ever!”
By Bishop Jonathan Holston