The Advent of Angel Tree

colson2There are few things that thrill me more at Christmas time than Angel Tree! When I went to prison more than 30 years ago now, my greatest concern was not for myself but for my family. And in prison I saw how inmates anguished over how they could let their kids know how much they loved them. That’s why when Prison Fellowship staffer and ex-bank robber Mary Kay Beard began Angel Tree 25 years ago, I knew immediately that this would be something that could reach those families who suffer so much at Christmas. Since that beginning, Angel Tree has brought the message of Christ’s love to millions of prisoners’ children through volunteers who deliver gifts to them on behalf of their incarcerated parents. Every year, Patty and I bring gifts to one or two of these children. For me, it just would not seem like Christmas without Angel Tree. The same is true for a young man named Robert. At age 10, Robert watched his dad handcuffed and driven away to prison. To keep the family afloat, Robert’s mom packed up the family and moved them from their comfortable home in the country to a gang-ridden neighborhood in Fresno, California. As she struggled to put bread on the table, she warned her children that Christmas might not look like much that first year without their dad. On Christmas morning, Robert woke up to find a bare room and his mother crying on the couch. He went over to her and wrapped his arms around her, suppressing his own tears. He told her that he did not mind that they did not have any gifts; that they were not all that important. But her tears were not tears of sadness; they were tears of joy. She told Robert to go look out on their front porch. When he did, he saw gifts piled high, some with labels with his dad’s name on them. The gifts were Angel Tree gifts, given anonymously by volunteers from a local church. But Robert did not know that at the time. All he knew was that his dad loved him and remembered him. Robert and his family began attending the church that had been so generous. And when Robert’s father was released from prison, he began attending the church as well. Over the next few years, Robert dabbled in gang activity and even dropped out of high school, but through it all, the church was there supporting his family and reminding him of Christ’s love. Today, Robert, now a committed believer walking with the Lord, is the youth pastor of that same church. And every year, he and his wife sign up to purchase gifts for several Angel Tree children. Doesn’t that give you a marvelous picture of what the Advent season is really all about? God entered into our darkness with light in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. And that light, the Light of the world, changes us and enables us to spread the light to others. A light in Robert’s world changed him, and he is changing others today. To learn more about how you can continue to spread the light of hope to the hopeless through Angel Tree, call 1-800-55-ANGEL. And please, pray that families would be reconciled and lives would be transformed this Christmas. As the saying goes, all the darkness in the world cannot overcome the light of one small candle. This Advent light a candle and spread the light. You never know how God might shine through the life of a prisoner’s child one day as a result and turn him into a pastor.  
Today's BreakPoint Offer
Please give a generous donation today to help Angel Tree reach the families of prisoners today. Donate online or call 1-800-55-ANGEL. Thank you!  
For Further Reading and Information
Learn more about Angel Tree and how you can contribute to this ministry for prisoners’ children. Mark Earley, “The Point Radio: True Casualties,” The Point, 15 October 2007. BreakPoint Commentary No. 061218, “Families Restored: The Gift of Angel Tree.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 040106, “At the Foot of the Cross: A Story You Haven’t Heard.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 051219, “Rogue Angel: A Christmas Story.” Buy Rogue Angel: The Mary Kay Beard Story by Jodi Werhanowicz. Charles Colson and Mark Earley, Six Million Angels (Vine Books, 2003).


Chuck Colson



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