Christmas through the eyes of a child is always something special . . . the wonder of the Christmas story, the warmth of family, and the excitement of Christmas morning all take us back to a time when our own lives were a whole lot simpler.
But there’s something even more extraordinary about watching a child experience Christmas at Shepherd’s Gate. Before coming to our beautiful campuses in Brentwood and Livermore, most of the kids were used to receiving very little if anything for Christmas. Many of these kids come from homes where abuse and addiction made survival a daily struggle. Some of the children are experiencing Christmas in a homeless shelter for the first time because their home was lost in a foreclosure.
Sometimes the children walk into Shepherd’s Gate like little adults . . . already world-weary and hardened because of the trauma they’ve experienced. The good news is they don’t stay that way. At Shepherd’s Gate, we see Christmas as a time where we can help these children be kids again. We can’t undo the hurts they’ve experienced, but we can give them a safe, secure environment. We can provide them with new clothes and a toy or two at Christmas. We can show them how much they’re loved — how much they matter to Jesus. Take 11-year old Jordan, for instance. For him, Christmas at Shepherd’s Gate was the first time he and his siblings had all been together for more than a day or two in a row. A product of an abusive home, Jordan’s mother had started taking drugs when she was 11 years old, and her habit had torn the family apart until she came to Shepherd’s Gate and began turning things around. I wish you could have seen Jordan’s face when his mother proudly brought out donated gifts she’d chosen and wrapped for each of her children. He almost looked confused, as if he couldn’t quite believe these gifts were for him. The way Jordan smiled at his mom as he opened his gifts — well, I can tell you what her favorite Christmas gift was. Jordan and his brothers and sisters even heard the real Christmas story for the first time. He said it was the best Christmas he’s ever had! Imagine…his best Christmas ever, spent at a shelter. This Christmas, as you give your own children the gifts you’ve carefully chosen and wrapped, I hope you’ll think of the children here at Shepherd’s Gate and pray for them — that the love of Jesus will begin to warm and heal their broken hearts, and that these little ones will get a new start along with their mothers.
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love.
Joy to the world. The Lord is come. ~George F. Handel
What’s your favorite Christmas memory as a child? If you’ve ever spent Christmas here at Shepherd’s Gate as a volunteer or as a resident, what do you remember most?
Steve McRee Executive Director, Shepherd’s Gate