The Herald Bulletin

December 18, 2013

Jim Bailey: Giving is the real heart of the Christmas season

The Herald Bulletin

---- — When I was much younger I composed a little ditty (never published) that expressed my sentiment about the Christmas season:

Oh, the spirit of Christmas is in giving,

In giving, in giving,

Oh the spirit of Christmas is in giving,

It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

(Of course, you can see why it was never published.)

It’s a tradition that has been carried on for a couple of millennia by rich and poor, young and old. And the current giving season was kicked off in Indianapolis by the Gaither Homecoming Christmas Spectacular, which benefited the Wheeler Mission’s ongoing fundraising campaign in a big way.

The usual cast was there: Bill and Gloria Gaither, the Gaither Vocal Band, The Isaacs, The Martins, Charlotte Ritchie, Angela Primm, Gene McDonald, Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor.

And there were special guests: Sandi Patty, Anderson’s Carl Erskine, the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and a 2,000-voice choir representing many area churches and colleges, five of them from the Anderson area.

The Isaacs came a day early to sing the national anthem at the Indiana Pacers game. Patty, in town for several appearances in the Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration, did the anthem at the Colts game the day after her Gaither Homecoming appearance.

Michael English left the Vocal Band recently, returning to solo work. Filling his lead spot that night was Adam Crabb of the Crabb Family, brother of Grammy-winning Jason Crabb.

Baritone Mark Lowry, who did his traditional rendition of the story of Piper the Mouse, also has announced he will be departing his GVB position at the end of the current tour. Two days after the concert, Lowry’s mother, Bev Lowry, died at age 79.

The Christmas Spectacular was all about the mission of Wheeler Mission. The Gaithers presented a check for $562,700 to the Indianapolis shelter, and those in attendance chipped in at least $75,000 more that weekend.

Erskine, after impromptu harmonica duets with Greene, brought out in a big way the work of Wheeler Mission as he played, “Love Lifted Me.”

Capping the evening, the choir, which stretched from the floor into the upper level of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, brought some 15,000 people to their feet with its rendition of “The Hallelujah Chorus.”

Closer to home, our daughter Rachel’s family is instilling the real meaning of Christmas in their gift-giving project with grandson Cameron.

At age 10, in his post-Santa phase, instead of showering him with gifts, as has been customary, he will receive three gifts this year (though she stresses they likely will be substantial), emblematic of the three gifts of the Magi to Jesus. That’s besides a few little things in his stocking, of course. In turn, he will be donating three of his used toys to less fortunate children.

Big or small, the act of giving is what Christmas is all about. Here’s hoping you and yours have a merry one.

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at