Christmas without Daddy

For most of us, the Christmas season is a time of nostalgia: childhood memories of fireplaces, Christmas trees, and presents. But for me, the most memorable Christmas wasn't happy at all. It was in 1974, after the Watergate trials, and I was in prison. On television we could see the rest of the world celebrating the holidays. But for the men behind bars with me, Christmas was just another dreary, lonely day. When I thought of my family, I was heart-sick. My mother had travelled from Boston to be with Patty in Washington. My children had come home from college. But I couldn't even send them a gift. Even now, Christmas brings back to me that haunting memories of that sense of helpless despair. It's a feeling that hangs over every prison during the holiday seasons. One million men and women are behind bars today--unable to see their families, unable even to send a token of their love. That's why Prison Fellowship now runs a ministry called Angel Tree. It coordinates volunteers who buy Christmas gifts and a gospel comic book for inmates' children. The gifts are given on behalf of their parents in prison. This year, nearly 200,000 children are receiving presents from their incarcerated parents through Angel Tree. Let me tell you one of my favorite Angel Tree stories. It's about a West Coast businessman who decided one year he and his family would do something special for Christmas. Through their local church, they signed up to participate in Angel Tree. They were matched with a family living in the slums of East Los Angeles: a family with three children--and a father in prison. The businessman and his family bought presents for each of the children. He packed them into the car and took off to find the house. The closer he got, the more nervous he grew. This was a part of town he'd never been in before. And it didn't look very safe. Finally he located the place--a sagging house with a bare yard. The man said afterward it took all his courage just to leave his shiny, expensive car parked for a few minutes in that neighborhood. But he reminded himself why he was there, strode up to the house, and climbed gingerly up the broken steps. Almost before he knocked on the door, it was opened by an eight-year-old boy. His glum, little face took in the mysterious stranger with the pile of gifts, and his eyes grew big. The businessman was suddenly at a loss for words. All he could think of to say was, "These are from your dad." But that's all it took. The little boy's face lit up like a Christmas tree. He grabbed the presents and began tearing off the paper. "I knew it!" he shouted joyfully. "I knew my Daddy wouldn't forget me!" It's a story that still moves me. For that family, three brightly wrapped packages held more than just toys and books. They held a message from a father torn away from his children at Christmas. The Bible tells us to remember those in prison, as though we were with them. But we should also remember their families. Children are often the invisible victims of their parents' crimes. Our God, in His graciousness, does remember them. I think back on that Christmas in prison and rejoice that now the Good News is coming to thousands of children every Christmas. And that, too, is very good news.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary