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God With Us: Emmanuel's Christmas

Nov. 24, 2009

I can't sing the words of that familiar Advent song "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" without remembering a young boy — a child of a prisoner.

Every year, Patty and I deliver Angel Tree Christmas gifts to the children of prisoners. And I'll never forget one year in particular, when Patty and I drove into a housing project to deliver our gifts.

We saw broken windows and grim-faced gang members lounging in doorways. After parking our car, we found our way to an apartment and knocked on the door. A boy, about 9 years old, cautiously opened the door.

"Merry Christmas," I said, holding out the presents. "These are from your daddy."

Immediately, the door swung wide open to let us in. The boy's mother was on her way home from work, and as we waited for her, we saw that the apartment inside was a wreck. The furniture was torn, the stuffing falling out. A scraggly Christmas tree leaned up against the wall, bare of any presents.

When I asked the boy his name, he replied, "Emmanuel."

"Emmanuel," I said, "Do you know what your name means?" I opened my Bible and read from Matthew: "And they shall call him Emmanuel — which means ‘God with us.'"

Just then, his mother came to the door. Emmanuel threw his arms around her thighs, crying, "Mama, Mama, God is with us!"

In Emmanuel's clear voice, I heard the message of Christmas afresh: That God is indeed with us always — and in a special way at Christmas, when He entered history through Jesus Christ.

I was particularly reminded that He came for the prisoner who turned His back on Him. He came for the mother who can't make ends meet. And He came for the child who cries himself to sleep at night because he's never known his daddy.

God is with us. And He has given us the rare chance to be with those who desperately need Him.

Each year, Angel Tree brings this message of hope to hundreds of thousands of children of inmates. Church volunteers deliver Christmas gifts — and the Gospel message — in the name of the incarcerated parent. Think what this means — not only to the children, but to the moms and dads in prison as well.

But this year we are facing an unprecedented crisis. Although churches have committed to delivering gifts to some 300,000 children, due to the slow economy and some other factors, there are 50,000 children as of today who remain unclaimed. They have no sponsors.

And so I'm doing something I've never done before. Please go to our website,, as soon as you've heard this broadcast, and sponsor one child for a donation of $35.20 — enough to send a gift, Gospel materials and a message from mom or dad to that child. Or maybe you could take two or three, or more, as God leads you.

And you could ask your church to help as well. Maybe they can adopt a group of children in an area. The thing is, we must not fail. No child should be forgotten this Christmas.

God showed us that first Christmas that He is with those who have no hope. And we have the rare privilege of taking that message to these children. Sign up, please, at today. Please, we need your help desperately.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

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