The Christmas season is upon us, and so is everything that goes with it–Christmas music, lights, gatherings of all kinds, shopping, and church services. Every year, we hear about the importance of keeping Christ in Christmas, but we also discover that it’s so easy to lose Jesus among all the holiday craziness.
If we are really going to make Christmas about Jesus, it will require intentionally changing the ways we celebrate. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing several ways to remember Jesus at Christmas. The first is giving to people in need. We all know that Christmas is the season of giving, but if we’re honest, it really feels more like the season of buying and receiving. Christians often talk about the War on Christmas, but I think the biggest assault on Christmas actually comes from Christians (including myself) who make it all about stuff, and leave Jesus as an afterthought. One significant way we can re-focus our Christmas celebrations on Christ is to be more generous during the Christmas season. Here are three ways to think about giving more:
1. Give More to People in Need by Spending Less on Gifts
I know, this one is hard to stomach at first, especially for parents and grandparents. While my wife Courtney and I don’t have children yet, I can already imagine that I’ll want to buy lots of great presents that will bring them joy on Christmas morning. But most of us already have much more than we need, and we end up buying many gifts just because we feel obligated. And often, they’re forgotten hours or even minutes after they’re opened. Instead of buying things for people who don’t need them, we can make a much bigger impact—and come closer to the true meaning of Christmas—by giving to people who are in need. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, even challenged members of his congregation to consider giving as much to their Christmas Eve offering as they spend on their families for Christmas. Courtney and I aren’t quite there yet, but we are making a conscious effort to reduce our Christmas gift spending so that we can give more this year. Many churches take up an offering on Christmas Eve that is designated for a special cause, and that can be a great way to give at Christmas. At Hydro UMC, we’ll be sending our Christmas Eve offering to Circle of Care. Their mission is “to provide help, healing and wholeness to children, youth and families who are hurting or in need,” and they do that through residential and foster care programs. It is a ministry that truly embodies the spirit of Christ, and we are excited to support them. Spending less on gifts so that we can give more allows us to partner with great ministries like Circle of Care.
2. Give Charitable Gifts in Honor of a Loved One
Some of us want to give more at Christmas, but we have a hard time putting fewer gifts under the tree. One way to get the best of both worlds is to make donations in honor of loved ones. My father is a Marine, and the last two years, I have made a donation to the Semper Fi Fund in his honor. The Semper Fi Fund provides financial assistance and support to injured members of the Armed Services and their families, and when you make a donation in honor of someone, they send a nice card to them. As best I can tell, these gifts have been at least as meaningful as any other gift I’ve given him, and maybe even more so. A donation in honor of a loved one to a cause or charity dear to them makes for a deeply meaningful gift that also makes a difference.
Another way of doing this might be to involve the recipient in the giving process. This would be especially helpful if you’re a parent. You could let your child help you decide where to make a donation and help them to understand the impact of your gift. We often tell our children that giving is important, but we don’t always do a good job of modeling generosity for them. Involving them in the process is a way to teach them why we give, how we decide how much and to whom to give, and to let them experience the joy of giving for themselves.
3. Give Gifts that Make a Difference
Finally, you can buy products that benefit others. In Nashville, there is an amazing ministry called Magdalene House, which helps women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction to escape life on the streets and to be healed. Magdalene has created a social enterprise called Thistle Farms, where the women of Magdalene make natural bath and body products. When you purchase their products, you support the ministry and the women who make the products. When Courtney and I lived in Nashville, we bought Thistle Farms products for the women in our families, and they loved the products, especially once they knew the story behind them. Buying products like this can be a great way of getting a great gift and supporting a great cause.
At Christmas, we celebrate the coming of the One who gave his life for us. He calls us to follow his example and live lives of generosity. However you approach giving during the Christmas season, I hope these ideas will help you to focus on the true meaning of Christmas this year and to imitate Jesus, who gives us more than we could ever ask or imagine. Next, we’ll look at celebrating Advent and Christmas by setting aside devotional time with God.
How has giving helped you to stay focused on Jesus during the Christmas season?