I want my kids to understand that Christmas is about more than the gifts. At the same time, I want them to see the gift inside of them they can offer to others. We can practice generosity and service all year long, but Christmas provides a unique opportunity to model a giving heart.
The Christmas season seems to blow in like a blizzard and bury us with piles of to-do’s. The key for me is to plan ahead just a little. To determine before life gets too hectic what our family will do.
Serving can be so fun when done together as a family. It’s an easy way to create new traditions that bond your family while giving to those in need. Here is a list of ways your family can serve others at Christmas.
- Have a hot chocolate stand and donate the proceeds to your favorite charity. – My kids love having lemonade stands. In the summer, they will host a stand and donate to Blood Water Mission to provide clean water for Africans. I’m amazed at the generosity of the people who stop when they know they are giving to a good cause. People will pay $5 for a cup of lemonade. So how about hot chocolate at Christmas? The kids have fun making signs and setting up the stand. They work hard and keep none of the money but know their efforts have the potential to save lives.
- Pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child– This is one of our favorite traditions. Each of our boys likes to pack their own shoebox. Many Chick-fil-A locations even have a day to drop off boxes in exchange for a free sandwich coupon.
- Purchase a gift for Angel Tree Prison Fellowship -Many children have lost a parent to prison. This is a way to provide a gift to a child whose parent is unable to give them a gift.
- Visit a nursing home– One year we visited the nursing home and just walked around visiting the residents while they ate lunch. This was very uncomfortable for me but totally comfortable for my husband. He didn’t hesitate to hug people he didn’t know, and I couldn’t believe how open and receptive the residents were. They loved seeing our boys. Andrew was about 2 at the time, and he easily hugged the necks of strangers and they hugged him right back. Other times we have purchased small gifts such as slipper socks and warm hats to hand out to the residents.
- Adopt a family– Many local charities offer ways to adopt a family in poverty that cannot afford to provide gifts at Christmas. This is a wonderful way to lessen what you might spend on your own family and allocate to a family in need. Children can be very involved in this by selecting the gifts, making cards, and wrapping presents.
- Host an orphan, or donate to help other families host an orphan. 2 years ago we hosted an orphan at Christmas and explained to our children that rather than use our money to buy gifts, we were going to bring a child who has no parents into our home, love on him, and model to him what family looks like and show him the love of God. This experience changed our family forever. We have now hosted twice, and God has caused our hearts to desire to care for the fatherless in tangible ways.
- Pack military boxes –Brave men and women serve our country so we can enjoy the freedoms and safety we enjoy. They sacrifice their lives for us. For many in the military, they will not be with family like we may be. Sending a little care package is a tiny way to say thank you for all they do for us.
- Blankets to homeless – Purchase blankets and visit an area of town where homeless men and women are likely to lay their heads at night in the cold. Pass out blankets. And pray over the blankets you will place in the hands of ones in need.
- Ornaments or craft projects to friends and neighbors – This isn’t a project of serving the needy, but is a way to continue to think of others over ourselves. It’s a fun way to love on the ones we love. The craft store has so many inexpensive projects that kids love doing. Pinterest not required! Just grab a few ornaments, paints, and stickers, and let the kids use their own creativity.
- Cookies and apple cider to homeless shelters – Take jugs of cider and plates of cookies to a homeless shelter and pass them out. It might be the brightest moment of someone’s week or season when you enter into their world even for just a moment to love on them.
- Provide a meal for a hospice patient – This has become a tradition for our family, which we started about 3 years ago. Contact your local hospice and ask if they have a volunteer list for donating a meal. Our hospice offers the option for Thanksgiving or Christmas and the option to provide a cooked or unprepared meal. In the past we have delivered a cooked meal on Christmas Day. Providing a meal is an obvious act of love and one that is so easy to get the kids involved in. It’s a way to remember that while some of us are in seasons of joy, others are in seasons of grief and pain. We can pray over the meal we prepare and pray for the mouths that receive it.
- Serve in a soup kitchen (most have age requirements, so this doesn’t work for young children). Our kids have not been old enough to do this yet, but I look forward to the day we can.
- Invite someone you don’t know over for dinner and practice hospitality. Is there a neighbor you don’t know very well? A widow nearby that could use the company? Don’t worry about how clean the house is, don’t worry about the decorations. Open the door wide, invite them in, and love on them through kind hospitality.
- Deliver treats to community service workers. Drop cookies at the fire stations, police station, teachers lounge, library help desk, garbage men. We are served all day long by many different people. Our kids need to be reminded how hard others work on their behalf. It’s a small thank you.
- Choose a gift from the Compassion or Samaritan’s Purse catalogue – The gifts from these catalogues are so inexpensive when you see the life-changing effects they have. Andrew selected a soccer ball as a gift item one year. Our boys take for granted they can go to a store whenever they want and buy a new ball. To realize some children don’t have a simple ball to play with was shocking to them. One of my boys chose the gift item that provides medicine. And one chose clean water.
- Random acts of kindness– everyone loves this, especially kids. It’s a fun way to be a secret santa. There are hundreds of random acts of kindness you can find online.
- Dedicate a day to the “little” ways that bless big – We often look for the obvious ways to serve, the soup kitchens, the shoebox packing, but we can’t overlook the little ways we can bless big. Make it a game of finding every chance to bless someone by serving them hope, love, peace, or joy. A child that normally fights back when offended by a brother chooses to disengage, he gave the gift of peace to the family. A child that saw an elderly in the produce aisle and offers to push her cart while she picks her produce, offers the gift of love. A child who sees a sad expression and tells a joke, or offers a giant smile, gives the gift of joy. We have the opportunity to serve constantly. While it is important to look for big ways to serve, it’s equally important to practice serving in the less obvious ways.
- Day of prayer– choose a day and a charity or need that God places on your heart and spend the day praying. Prayer changes situations more than anything we can ever do. It shouldn’t be overlooked. Prayer is the best act of service we can offer, and this is something we can model no matter the age of our children.
With all of these ideas (and the many I didn’t cover), we can’t forget to discuss with our kids why we are doing what we are doing. We aren’t trying to gain recognition. We aren’t trying to be super christian. We aren’t trying to gain favor. We are giving the gifts of Christmas. We are showing the love of Christ when we allow Him to use us to offer love, hope, peace, and joy to another.
Everything we do is an offering to Him. Every act of service is an act of worship.
One beautiful way to keep this visual in your home is to wrap up these “gifts” as gifts back to the Lord in honor of a season that is a celebration of His birth. This can be done by keeping a stocking for Jesus where you write notes on scraps of paper of all the gifts of Christmas you gave in His honor and fill His stocking. Or you can let the kids wrap up notes or packages addressed to Jesus that tell of the gift given for Him. Christmas morning unwrap these gifts to Jesus in celebration of His birth.
All in remembrance of the gift He gave for us. The gift of a son, born to die for our sins, so that we could have eternal life through Christ. The ultimate Christmas gift.
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