Continuing the series on What to Give God for Christmas…
Jesus didn’t stop with telling us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. He wants us to love other people as much as he loves them. That’s a tall order! How do we go about loving others?
There are as many ways to love others as there are others to love. This is where we get to be a bit creative.
By all means, do something special for those on your Christmas list. One of my love languages is “gifts” so I can appreciate how well a carefully chosen present will convey the love of the person giving it. Even here, there are ways to help others while blessing your friends and family. I always check out the gifts on fair trade websites, especially for those hard-to-shop-for people; these organizations are a good source of handmade, one-of-a-kind items. For starters, I recommend Trade As One. I’ve been more than pleased with both their products and their service. (See last year’s post on fair trade.)
Don’t limit your gift list to people you know who are close to you. One tradition our family has added in recent years is to give through one of the many relief and development-oriented catalogs now available. Some are sponsored by Christian organizations (such as World Vision), others are not (the Heifer Project, for example), but all are significant improvements in the lives of hurting people. Our favorite catalog, the one we usually donate through, is Partners International’s “Harvest of Hope.” I’ve mentioned them in the past.
The Harvest of Hope catalog has allowed us to provide financial assistance to an elderly widow in Ghana, job training to single moms in south Asia, and part of a cow (they never said which part) to a family in Africa. Since we have hens of our own, I especially enjoy giving a flock of chickens to a needy family somewhere in the world. Then there was the year we gave my husband, Pete, a goat! (The gift card mentioned something about giving a young goat to the old goat.) We understand that Pete’s goat is happily living in the Dominican Republic.
While a terrific idea, giving in this way is a bit impersonal. We will never meet the families we help in this way. That’s why we try to also help someone right in our community. This year, everyone in our small group Bible study is working together to bless a single mom with three boys, one of whom is disabled. We were connected with her through our church. The family is in financial crisis and on the verge of being homeless, so celebrating Christmas with special foods and gifts would have been impossible without our help. (We’re also working with social services to find them more stable housing.)
There are plenty of ways to bless others at this time of year. Give a gift to a needy child through Angel Tree, Project Christmas Child, or a local toy drive. Throw some bills in the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute food to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.
If finances are tight you can donate your time. Can’t afford extra food? Then offer to wash the dishes at that soup kitchen. (You’ll get fed too.) Volunteer to ring that Salvation Army bell. Visit a skilled nursing facility (call ahead). Offer to babysit while a single mom goes Christmas shopping—or just enjoys a long, uninterrupted, bubbly soak in the tub. Consider looking for a small ministry where your donation of time and finances will really make a difference.Pray and ask God what he might want you to do—he can arrange all sorts of amazing opportunities to spread his love around a bit.
Now that I think about it, it seems there are lots of things that Jesus would like for Christmas!