As a child growing up in the poorest county of West Virginia, Christmas didn’t include a stack of gifts under a lavishly decorated tree or brunch at a downtown hotel. If we thumbed through any catalogs, it wasn’t to make a selection; it was more about wondering what children in other homes would be receiving. When we opened our presents that Mom ordered with Top Value stamps, we didn’t think of exchanges or upgrades.
No, the Tolers didn’t have much by today’s economic standards; but we were privileged. We had each other. We had parents who loved us and did their best to provide for us. My brothers and I had dreams and drive for a life past the hills and mountains surrounding our home. But our context of Christmas was always more about the WHO than the WHAT.
Even now, the worldwide network of friends and family that my brothers, Terry and Mark, and I share are most cherished. Thank you for being a part of that network.
But we share so much more than country memories and international networks. We share a common belief in a God who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to heal its poverty and brokenness. What held us in good times and bad? Faith. What motivated us to be and to do our best? Faith. What brought the ultimate meaning to our lives, from the devotional times and singing around the old, upright piano of a tiny West Virginia living room to preach and sing and teach in auditoriums and churches all over the world? Faith.
We each discovered that a borrowed manger was only a launching pad for the true meaning of Christmas: a personal relationship with Christ and sharing his mission to bring forgiveness and hope to everyone. We discovered that faith in him was the pathway of any successes we have walked.
So, on behalf of my family, including my wife, Linda; our sons and daughters-in-law, Seth and Marcy, Adam and Amanda; and our four grandchildren, we wish you God’s best for this Christmas season and the coming New Year.