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Caitlin’s Christmas

Caitlin had, of course, lived through several Christmas seasons in the past. At five years old, she had experienced the presents, the nice food and the singing of some Christmas songs.

What Caitlin had longed for was a Christmas Day with a forever family. She had spent the last three in three different places. The first had been spent with her birth parents, before they had been told they couldn’t look after her properly. The second had been spent in temporary foster care. The third was with another foster carer, after a final, brief spell at home with her birth parents.

After a long, long time of being visited, being questioned, waiting, and a couple of weeks of promises from grown-ups, Caitlin finally met her new mum and dad. They were very nice people, even if they scared her a little bit at first. They were tall and always smiling, but they were different, and Caitlin wasn’t sure whether she was supposed to love them straight away, or whether that came after a few days or weeks.

She hadn’t realised that they had seen pictures of her long before she had seen pictures of them. They seemed to know everything about her. They had already grown to love her before they had actually seen her. They knew her favourite foods, the names of her toys and the games she liked to play.

Her new parents instantly loved her and gave her everything they could give her. She had her own bedroom which was purple, her favourite colour. She had a lot of new clothes and some nice new toys. She was told that her first Christmas with them would be special, and she looked forward to it immensely.

In the couple of months between her arrival and her first Christmas with her new parents, Caitlin went everywhere with her new parents. She went with them to do the shopping, she went to visit her new dad at work, and she went to church with her parents.

Before living in her new home she hadn’t been to church before. In her time at church, and in her new home, she had learned about a man called Jesus Christ. She learned that Jesus had lived on earth a long, long time ago. She learned that he was a kind person who wanted to help everyone. She learned that Jesus set up a church that taught everyone to be kind to each other and to help those who were in need.

Caitlin learned that people who tried to be like Jesus always helped people, visited people who were lonely, and gave things to people who didn’t have things that they needed. Her new parents had told her that they had been happiest when they had given things away to needy people.

She had learned about Santa last Christmas. He was a strange fat man who lived at the North Pole and gave presents to children all over the world in one night. He also worked really hard to give things to people. She had learned that the people that were talked about at Christmas gave things away to people and were happy to do it. Christmas was all about giving things to others.

Christmas Day arrived and Caitlin was given some wonderful presents. She loved having far too many new toys, but her there favourite gifts were a pink bicycle, a beautiful and really warm new coat, and a really pretty necklace. She tried to ride on her new bike on the day she unwrapped it, having never had a bike before. After falling off three times and almost getting hurt, her new daddy decided she had had enough of riding it for one day. She had tried out her new coat on the cold weather, and she wouldn’t let anyone even suggest that she take off her new necklace. She loved her new possessions, and she loved her new home.

In the days between Christmas and New Year Caitlin played with some friends in the streets near her home. She met children she had never seen before, and made new friends.

On New Year’s Eve she met some of her new aunts, uncles and cousins at a family get-together. They were nice enough people, and the cousins seemed funny and a bit crazy. They made her smile with the silly things they did, and she knew they were trying a bit too hard to get her to like them.

During the course of the discussions with the family, her parents asked her to get some of her gifts so she could show them off to her new extended family.

“Get your new bike, Caitlin,” asked her dad.

“I don’t know where it is,” she responded.

Her dad was shocked and looked upset. He finally said that it was difficult to lose something the size of a bicycle and that it was probably lurking in a dark corner of the garden. “Get your nice new coat then.”

“I must have put it away somewhere.” Her mum looked puzzled. Coats were always hung next to the front door on one of several pegs she could reach.

“Honey, where is your pretty new necklace,” her mother asked.

“I’ve put it somewhere safe so I don’t lose it or break it.” Her mother smiled, but still looked unsure about Caitlin’s reasons for not having her new gifts.

After a few more minutes, her dad sat next to Caitlin on a chair in the quiet dining room. The rest of the family were in the living room watching a movie, so it gave them a chance to talk.

“Your coat, your bike and your necklace are somewhere, aren’t they?” her father asked.

Caitlin nodded, afraid her dad would find out that she no longer had them. He would probably be upset at having spent so much on the gifts when she hadn’t even kept them for more than a few days.

“Can you tell me where they are? I promise I won’t be mad if you’ve broken them.”

“I haven’t broken them,” she said, meeting his gaze. “I just remembered what you told me about Jesus.”

“What did I tell you?”

“You told me that when Jesus was born people gave him gifts. You also said that he spent his life trying to help people who needed help.”

“Okay. What does that have to do with you breaking your presents?”

“Oh, Daddy. I didn’t break them.” She said, rolling her eyes. “Do you know Isabel? She lives round the corner and goes to my school.”

Her dad shook his head.

“Her mummy and daddy didn’t have enough money to get her a new coat. I have two already and they are still nice and warm. She hasn’t been wearing a coat when she’s walked to school, so I gave her mine.”

She expected her dad to be upset, but he just smiled. “What about the bike?”

“Sophie lives next door. She had her bike stolen a few months ago. Her parents were upset with her, and she was really sad. She didn’t get a new bike for Christmas because her parents said she didn’t look after the last one. I said she could ride mine when she wanted to. I told her she could keep it at her house if she let me borrow it sometimes.”

Her dad didn’t have to ask about the necklace. She told him without any further prompting. “Jack, on the next, street really wanted to get his sister a necklace for Christmas but he didn’t have any money. His mummy doesn’t have any money either. His daddy died a little while ago and they didn’t even get a nice Christmas dinner.”

“So you gave some of your most precious gifts to other people who aren’t as lucky as you?”

Caitlin nodded. She felt tears welling up in her eyes.

“Caitlin, you’ve just taught me more about Christmas than I’ve ever taught you. You have been a better example of the Saviour than I think I have been at any point in my life.”

Caitlin got a huge hug from her new dad, who seemed to love her more than ever. She had been promised a special Christmas with her new family. What no one had realised was that she would be the person responsible for providing the most special feelings her family had enjoyed.

Caitlin and her family took a different approach for future Christmas periods. They made an extra effort to give something away to people in need every single Christmas. They felt a new appreciation for a season that celebrated the birth and life of the most generous person who has ever lived. The person, born of a Heavenly Father and of earthly mother, who is the Saviour of the World.

May each of us find a deeper meaning in our discipleship this festive season. May we all look towards helping others through their troubles. Jesus, as a child, received precious gifts. He went on to give more to others than he had ever received himself. May we strive to do the same this December, and throughout the year as we try to emulate His example.

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