Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Simplicity

As I think about celebrating the birth of our Savior, I’m asking myself, “What would Jesus do for Christmas? Whom would Jesus want to bless?” Instead of getting caught up in making the holiday perfect or sentimental for ME and for MY family and concentrating on OUR gifts and OUR traditions, I’m remembering that Jesus cares about the broken, the needy, the hurting, and the lost. I want my kids to know that this holiday is about HIM, not us, and though we can have some special family times and exchange fun gifts to bless one another, we need to keep the focus on HIM. A lot of Christians say this in word, but don't practice it in deed. In fact, many of my Christmas' were spent thinking about what I'd get, or whom I'd get to spend time with, or getting the perfect gifts for someone so I'd look good. This year, I don't just want to say the words, I want to really put the TRUE meaning of Christmas into action. In asking myself whom Jesus would care about, these are my answers:

The homeless
The poorest of the poor
Unwed mothers
The lonely
The spiritually lost
Hurting kids
The hungry
Those in prison
The sick

There are many ways you can give, whether by collecting loose change for a cause in a jar on the kitchen table, sacrificing to give a large donation, or giving of your time, your prayers, and your attention to help others. Opportunities abound around us to share Jesus with a world desperate for a Savior.

Even if the budget is tight, you can find ways to give. I found lots of nice baby clothing, some new diapers and new bottles, and warm winter hats, scarves, and gloves at the thrift store when they had their Everything-you-can-stuff-in-a-bag-for-$2 Days. For just a couple of bucks I was able to get lots of things to give to a homeless ministry and to a nearby crisis pregnancy center. I love shopping and finding great deals but hate clutter so a perfect solution is finding bargains that can truly bless the needy.
Most churches do Operation Christmas Child boxes, Angel Tree gifts and food drives for the poor during the holiday season which you can contribute to. Pray daily for an unsaved friend or family member. Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless mission. Invite some folks without family over for a meal. Have the kids color pictures for a prisoner. Write notes of appreciation to those who serve tirelessly in your church.

I don't think it's wrong to celebrate, host parties, have gift exchanges, fun family memories and church programs, but I do think that we need to keep from letting all of this crowd out the time we have to really serve and be Jesus to the world around us. These things take up tons of time and we just have to be careful. I was so committed to having a simple Dec. this year and then we had a sudden opportunity to move and things got crazy. However, in spite of the moving and everything, God has brought things to mind that I can do, even in a busy time, to bless others. There is always too much to do so if you wait for free time to serve, it won't happen. Instead, plan it into your schedule and make it happen.

The number one thing I want for Christmas is for my brother to be saved. Other concerns on my heart: the famine in Ethiopia (we have a sponsored child there), writing to Hannah Overton to encourage her in prison, having some folks from church over for meals, taking goodies to a lonely, eldery neighbor, writing notes of encouragement to those who are weary, babysitting for a friend who just experienced the loss of her baby, stockpiling goods for the crisis pregnancy center, and trying to find ways to bless some of our favorite missionaries/ministries. In addition I try to include the hope of Jesus and what He's doing in our family in our Christmas letter which goes to many unsaved relatives, and we plan to bless some of the people in our lives with some goodies that don't often get a thank-you (like the librarian, the grocery cashiers, the thrift store gals, etc.)

What ideas do you have for reaching out to those who need a helping hand this season?

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