When God Paid For Christmas

Money was so tight my freshman year in college that my family cancelled Christmas. We were struggling financially, and the three jobs my dad was working afforded him only four hours of sleep a night — with too little monetary margin to waste on presents.

When my parents told us there wouldn’t be any presents that year, my two younger sisters and I were unruffled. We were completely fine with a low-key Christmas. We’d each saved up a little bit of money to spend on Mom and Dad and each other, and that would be the extent of our gift-giving. But after all, presents aren’t what Christmas is all about, and we could still celebrate in our usual way.

Which is exactly what we did. We cracked open the special popcorn tin that was reserved for Christmas Eve. We munched away at the three different flavors of popcorn as we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” –another one of our Christmas Eve traditions. Then, in a deviation from the norm (and because we weren’t planning to wake up early to open presents) my sisters and I stayed up late into the night, past midnight in fact, laughing and joking and giggling over who-knows-what.

When we finally went to bed, we slept hard. Then around 8 am my sisters called to me to get out of bed. “There are presents down here!” they said. But I didn’t believe them. (Also, I really like my sleep.) So I rolled over and told them I knew very well there were no presents down there and that they were just making it up to try to get me out of bed earlier than I wanted.

To which they replied: “We’re not making it up! There really are presents down here!” At this point I figured I wasn’t going to get them to be quiet and stop bothering me, so I slid out of bed and stumbled downstairs, fully expecting to see nothing but our decked-out tree. But to my surprise, I found our living room stuffed full of bags that were stuffed full of tissue paper. And inside those tissue-paper parcels were actual presents.

This all happened because, unbeknownst to us sisters, someone had anonymously gifted my family some money for Christmas. My sisters and I had woken the day before Christmas to find a note from our parents telling us they’d gone out for a few hours to “spend some time together”; what they were actually doing was last-minute Christmas shopping. And later that night, when Mom kept asking us if we were going to go to bed anytime soon, we just shrugged her off and kept right on giggling. We didn’t know she wanted us to disappear into our bedrooms so she and Dad could wrap those presents – er, stuff those bags.

That’s the story of the year God paid for Christmas. It was the year God gave us a gift just because. Not because we deserved it, not because He had to, but just because. And we’ve taken that story with us ever since; it’s become part of our family lore. It was a magical Christmas, and it wasn’t just because we encountered God as Jehoveh-Jireh, the Lord who provides. It was also because that was the year we learned we didn’t need presents at all, as long as we had each other (and our traditions).

So I call it the year God paid for Christmas, but I do realize the redundancy here, because God always pays for Christmas. He paid for the very first one, two thousand years ago in a little town called Bethlehem, in order that thirty-three years later, on a hill outside the holy city of Jerusalem, He could pay the price for each and every one of our sins. And we know that everything we have comes from Him, down to the very breath we breathe.

But on this particular Christmas, sixteen years ago now, Yahweh’s payment was extremely evident to us. It was clear that Christmas came from Him, not from us. It was clear the bounty we received wasn’t works-based; it was grace-based.

Just because.


Do you have a story of God’s provision, financial or otherwise, at Christmastime?


  1. Michele Womble December 22, 2015

    What a beautiful story!  I can picture you and your sisters staying up and carrying on and your mom trying to discretely usher you off to bed.  Thank you so much for sharing it.  It’s beautiful that you and your sisters were ok with there being no presents, and then it’s beautiful that there WERE presents …I’m thinking a lot about number of gifts because we’re in the US for Christmas this year with extended family and there are (naturally) a lot more gifts for our kids than usual (because we’re here and we’re with relatives) and there’s that tendency to say, oh, that’s bad…but maybe it isn’t bad, maybe  –  that’s also God’s blessing – as long as we don’t lose perspective…as long as we never forget that God always pays for Christmas.

    1. Elizabeth December 23, 2015

      Michele, it was exactly like that — her trying to discretely usher us off to bed!

      And I have had the same thoughts as you too, being here with relatives and receiving more this year. But you make a good point — that’s not necessarily a bad thing! As long as we don’t lose perspective. 🙂 And I love your reiteration of “as long as we never forget that God always pays for Christmas.” Amen, and amen. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights. I’m remembering that truth with you, sister.

  2. Denise December 23, 2015

    We were back from China. We thought we were only back for six months and it ended up being five years. This was the fifth Christmas back and we had gone through all our savings etc. There wasn’t much money for food let alone Christmas presents. Then two women from a Bible study I was attending asked me out for lunch. I didn’t know them very well at the time, but thought the invitation was sweet. At lunch they gave us an envelope full of enough cash to get presents for everyone and Christmas dinner besides. What a blessing.

    Another Christmas while in China, we were low on funds again and two days before Christmas my husband’s agent (he did commercials, very infrequently, as a side job when they needed a foreign older looking man) called with a two hour job, a block away that also covered Christmas expenses just fine.

    Our God is so creative with our needs, both big and small.

    1. Elizabeth December 23, 2015

      Denise, I LOVE both these stories!! Thank you so much for sharing them. I love hearing stories of God’s provision like this. People shared their Christmas stories on my personal FB page too, and I loved reading them!!

      And agreed, God cares about our needs, both big and small. 🙂 It’s so cool how God provides, whether it’s through His people as in your first story, or through secular avenues (and  hence, people who don’t even know God is using them) as in your second. Love!

  3. Anna December 26, 2015

    That’s an amazing story.  Thanks for sharing.  🙂  It is incredible how God meets our needs in creative ways.  We had a year that we had almost nothing for our kids due to an isolated living situation and a war that was keeping supplies away.  Our blessing that year was that we were able to help plan and participate in a gift distribution of food and practical items for patients in the hospital that has continued- now in its 7th year.  Our kids remember that as one of the best Christmas celebrations.  In this case, it wasn’t material needs being met, but other lessons learned.

    And this isn’t Christmas memories, but one year we had to charter a flight in January due to all commercial air travel being canceled.  It was our only way to get out of the isolated place where we lived, but cost over $5,000.  Without our making the specific need known, God provided extra gifts that month.  We found out from some other friends that right around the same time, they had a similar experience.  In their case, God provided an amazing deal on plane tickets.  It was really cool to see those two similar needs that God met in different ways 🙂

    1. Elizabeth December 27, 2015

      Such a cool story! I love how that year, Christmas became about passing something on! Just like it should be 🙂

      And I love your travel stories too! Love how something similar happened to your friends around the same time 🙂

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.