With Christmas approaching, our hearts and minds are often more in tune to the needs of others in our communities and around the world. What does your family do to put the focus on others in need at Christmas and give back to your community? Is there a charity you donate to, a mission you help out with, an organization you volunteer at? What ways have you thought of, but haven't necessarily tried yet, to lend a helping hand to make someone's Christmas a little brighter or their load a little lighter?
We do a few things at Christmas to put the focus on helping others. One of the things the kids look forward to every year is filling the shoe boxes for Samaritan's Purse to send to a needy child in a third world country. My plan this year sort of dwindled mid April, but we started purchasing items for the shoeboxes last January, so we would remember to pray for each child receiving the boxes every month and also to spread the cost out through the year, rather than one lump sum in October or November. So now we have some more items this year to buy to complete the packages, but the kids each love to pick out the items and package it all up. They add a photo of themselves and a card as well, telling a little about themselves. Then we pray for the child receiving it and take it to the collection site.
In our neighbourhood there are a lot of single moms, so every year the kids help bake sugar cookies and decorate them and then we package them up with some other baking and the kids deliver the packages with cards they have made. We also choose one of these families to buy gifts for and then our church adds to the gifts with a food basket and gift cards. Then we have the joy of delivering the package! Because we also have a relationship with these families, there have been lots of opportunities to share the hope of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas. This year we are going to do one additional thing. We are going to take the kids of one or two of the single moms shopping for them to pick out a present for her. We realized this last year on Christmas Eve when one of the kids remarked how many gifts they had under the tree. My husband asked what that child had bought for her mom and she sheepishly said that she had nothing to give her. We felt awful and purposed to help these kids get something for their moms this Christmas.
One idea we haven't done for a few years is simple, but beautiful in its reward. Put a few wrapped chocolates or candies in an empty toilet paper tube and wrap it in pretty Christmas paper. You could also buy little cello bags and put the candies in that. Secure the ends with curling ribbon and add a Bible verse that you've printed on the computer such as Luke 2:8-14. It should look like a Christmas Cracker when you're done. Then, wherever you go during the month of December, hand them out to each person. The dry-cleaner, the clerk at the grocer, the homeless person you see outside the mall - anyone at all. It's amazing how this one little gift opens up a dialogue you may not otherwise get the opportunity to engage in. Pray for each person you give the cracker to. We know that God's Word doesn't return empty, so even if they seem to slough it off, that Bible verse will resound in their hearts and possibly be the first time they have ever read God's Word. How exciting!
At the end of November we compile a list of people to pray for during the month of December. Then we write each one individually on a slip of paper and randomly put them in each little box on our Advent Calendar to pray for these people as part of our devotions. Praying for people sparks new ideas of ways to bless and encourage them as well. They are not always people we know; I try to include missionaries, children in foreign countries and government officials as well.
One other little thing I would like to do this year is to collect bottles and cans from the neighbourhood and use the money from them to purchase food for the food bank. Then I'll take the kids to the food bank so they can see the people it will go toward supporting and also as a reminder of how much God has blessed us with.
I love the Christmas season and desire to share the love of Christ with everyone we come in contact with. Even something seemingly small like exhibiting patience in the line ups and smiling at the cashier, wishing them a Merry Christmas goes a long way. Hand out a cup of hot coffee to your mail carrier or offer to watch your neighbour's children for a few hours while they take a breather. It doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming; just an act of kindness could open the door to someone's heart this Christmas.
We don’t always make it but as a rule of thumb, we like to give as much money away at Christmas as we spend on ourselves; and we try to involve the children in the decisions as much as possible.
Here are some ways we have tried:
Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes; one for each of our children and similar ages; the kids help choose the contents.
Give or contribute to a hamper and gifts to a needy family through Share.
Through Hope International, Foundation for His Ministry or Food for the Hungry, buy a goat, tarps, beans and rice, a bicycle etc. for a needy family or individuals.
With church friends go to sing carols at a seniors residence.
Our church is helping with the wet weather mat program and our month is December so some of us will be helping out. My dream is to one year give up our family dinner and help serve or provide a dinner for the needy; whether I will ever do that remains to be seen!
I have been involved in Crossroads Community Project for the past 9 years. My time with people who are struggling with various issues such as homelessness, addictions, mental illness and poverty have been rich and transforming.
We extend the radical welcome of Christ to vulnerable people through meals, overnight shelter, computer use, laundry, intentional friendships, participant action group, street outreach, Bible study, prayer, etc. We take a learning position, making every effort to blur the lines between volunteers and guests. I trust that you would also be enriched as you learn from others.
Something we have done since our children were little is the Operation Christmas Child boxes. All my kids now look forward to shopping for them and assembling them. Another thing we like to try to do is to go shopping and choose a gift for the toy bank and deliver it.
A favourite activity of my kids is to bake cookies for the neighbours. They also usually make some to take to other people we through the holidays, whether friends, grandparents, or the homeless we work with Friday nights.
Another thing we do, through our church, is make and serve a dinner on Christmas Day for the homeless in our community. We had the opportunity to be a part of this a couple years ago, and the kids really love being part of it, and the whole atmosphere of an activity like that is just amazing! We did one on Thanskgiving Day and the kids loved being involved – they were so eager and willing to help, even making sure the floor was cleaned properly BEFORE people came for dinner as they didn’t think it was good for people to come to a nice dinner and see dirt on the floor (we had rolled a mat out of the way and the floor was dusty underneath). On Christmas Day our hope is to provide guests with dinner, but also with a place to relax in a safe, warm, Christ-like welcoming atmosphere, with a movie and a sing-along.
From the November 2009 NLHS newsletter
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