Want Christmas to be more about kindness than getting presents? Read on as Snow reveals her favorite giving traditions of the season!
We all know the saying, “It is better to give than to receive.” But it can be hard to live this out during the holiday season. It can be especially hard for our kids, when everyone is asking them to make lists of all the things they want. Catalogs and ads tempt them with the latest gadget, electronic, and toy. And it can be easy to fall into a me, me, me, want, want, want mentality.
But I think as parents we need to be very intentional about making the holidays not about our kids. I think we need to be very intentional about LIVING it is better to give than to receive. And I think it starts with being very intentional about teaching our kids the real reason for the season…..
It was because of LOVE that God gifted humanity with His One and Only Son that silent night so long ago. It was because of LOVE that Messiah came to redeem what was lost at the fall in the Garden. It was LOVE that hung on a cross for my sins and yours. And it was LOVE that brought LOVE back from the grave.
God is LOVE, and that needs to be our focus this and every holiday season.
So the question then should be, “How can we show God is LOVE to our family, friends, neighbors, community members, and strangers this holiday season?
We made it a point several years ago to make Christmas not just a day but a season, a season to refocus, reprioritize, and redirect our time, money, and effort, because let’s be honest, it is very easy to get off track throughout the year!
We celebrate the Christmas “season”, not just a day. And we celebrate it by giving to others and being the brightest light we can be during this season of Light.
It’s the first verse most of us learn as a child. You see it on display at football games and on street corner signs. It is probably the most repeated verse in the bible. But that doesn’t make its truth any less profound.
“For God so LOVED the world that He GAVE his One and Only Son…..”(John 3:16)
God didn’t hold back His Love when He sent His Son to tabernacle with mankind. He GAVE even though He knew how it was going to end.
The greatest gift we can give this holiday season is His Love. And we give His Love by living out His command.
“And Yahshua (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love Yahweh, your Elohim (the Lord your God) with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and great command. And the second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Christmas is the perfect season to love on your community around you. And it is the perfect season to teach your kids that it really is better to give than to receive.
SNOW’S FAVORITE CHRISTMAS KINDNESS TRADITIONS
RACK MONTH. RACK, or Random Acts of Christmas Kindness is our take on the Random Acts of Kindness Day, with a Christmas twist. We don’t spend a day doing random acts of kindness; we spend the entire month. One act of kindness per day, beginning December 1. My kids absolutely LOVE this tradition. And it is the perfect way to reiterate the point that it is better to give than to receive all month long. The last week in November I usually spend an evening brainstorming who we want to gift. I try to create an eclectic list of individuals-strangers, family, friends, community members, and special people in our life, like doctors, coaches, and babysitters. I then create a calendar for the month of December, then write in an act of kindness for each day of the month, leading up to Christmas Day. Some activities we have done in the past have been to make and deliver cards to a nursing home, bake treats for our neighbors, mailman, and other community service members, leave money taped to items at the store, decorate a friend’s front yard, pass out candy canes while we grocery shop, help gather carts at the grocery store, ring the Salvation Army bell, carol in our neighborhood, drop library books in the deposit so drivers don’t have to get out of their cars, host a gift wrapping party, and volunteer at a local charity organization. We even schedule Sibling Saturday, a day to complete an act of kindness for a sibling. The two rules for our RACK activities are the whole family has to try to participate and the acts have to be as anonymous as possible. We culminate the season with our What Will We Give To The King activity. A few days before Christmas, I have the kids think of one way they can continue acts of kindness in the new year to show our Messiah’s love to others all year. They write down their idea (and I write them down on their goal sheets) and then they put them in mini stockings we have hanging around our nativity. Acting in kindness to others is their act of worship to our Savior.
ADOPT A FAMILY. We used to have each child pick an Angel Tree of the tree at Walmart, and then take them shopping for one thing the child needs and one thing the child wants. That was about four kids ago though. With six kids and a tight budget, we can no longer afford to have every child pick a child, so instead we adopt a family from a local battered women’s shelter for single moms and their kids. Starting around Thanksgiving, we have family and friends donate money or items. Then around the first of December, we all meet up to buy gifts, an outfit, and a few stocking stuffers for each kid. With the leftover funds, we purchase groceries for the mom to last the two weeks while the kids are home for break. We also purchase wrapping paper and tape so she can wrap the presents. We then deliver them as a group to the mom. I love that my kids get to see the impact they can have on someone else’s situation and life. And they have a blast shopping for other kids!
SECRET GIVER. This is a tradition we just recently started with our big kids. Beginning in November, I had the big kids start to pray for someone that God wanted them to gift to secretly for the holidays. I love this activity so much because not only is it asking my kids to consider someone else but it is also encouraging them to actively seek and listen to God’s promptings. They pray for the who and the what. Then in December they begin their secret gifting, by planning, purchasing, and delivering their gift(s) in secret to the person God laid on their heart. They are not allowed to tell the person the gifts are from them, because in all honesty, they aren’t from my kids, they are from God, working through my children to bless another of His children. I then encourage them to continue to pray for that person throughout the next year. I make them use their own money, so for the weeks leading up to Christmas I pay them for doing extra chores around the house, which is a GIFT for me! I don’t have as much cleaning to do!
An alternative to this tradition would be what Cindy does with her kids. Cindy and Prince Charming give their kids money to spend on any one they feel lead to bless throughout the month of December. This could be a friend, a family member, or even a stranger. No restrictions, no questions asked. Their kids pick who and what and complete the gifting all on their own, usually very spontaneously.
CHRISTmas CD. This is my absolute FAVORITE RACK tradition we do, because it involves Christmas music! Beginning in September, we start listening to a Christian Christmas music station on Pandora. When a song comes on that someone really likes, we write it and the artist down. Then in October, I begin to collect the songs on our Amazon music account. We put the songs picked out by each family member on a CD. We call this our It’s All About CHRISTmas CD. We then share it with the one God puts on our heart. One year we left it on a veteran’s car; another year we put it in a bag with other Christmas goodies and left it on a stranger’s front porch. We put only Christmas songs that tell of God’s gift to humanity and speak of Messiah’s birth, death, and resurrection. I believe music is God’s language to us and our proper response to Him in praise. And I just love that during the holiday season, stations who wouldn’t normally play songs about His perfect Love and Grace will play them; and people who wouldn’t normally sing about Him are openly singing, praising, and declaring the Name above all names without even realizing it!
CHRISTMAS TREATS AND SWEETS. I normally HATE to cook, bake, decorate, or wrap. But there is something about Christmas that makes these things so much more enjoyable. Around mid December, we add a bit extra to our grocery budget and buy all things sweet to make, bake, and decorate cookies, pretzels, breads, and candy. We then give them out to everyone and anyone who will take them; the neighbors, mailman, waste management team, librarian. We’ll package the goodies on plates we bought from the Dollar Tree and decorated with pictures and verses (you can decorate the plates with permanent marker then bake on low and the markings will stay!) We usually take a plate to the fire station near our home and will even leave a tin full of goodies on an unsuspecting family friend’s doorstep.
THE NATIVITY STORY. This activity is a bit more costly, but I try to make-up for the cost by adjusting our grocery bill. Starting in November, I buy as many of the Nativity Story movies as I can (Walmart usually sells them for $5). We then gift them to others, mostly strangers. We will leave them on cars, doorsteps of homes with lights we like, and pass them out as we holiday shop. I love this activity because it brings the Christmas season back into focus. And this is my favorite Christmas movie that relates the story of Messiah’s birth.
VOLUNTEER AT A LOCAL CHARITY. This one is really one you should try to do all year long, as most charities are inundated with help during the holidays but have a hard time finding help throughout the rest of the year. But the holidays are a great time to get your foot in the door at a local charity. I suggest, though, researching the charity before for restrictions on participating. Our favorite local charity where we live is called Santa’s Cause. This charity gathers toys, clothes, and other items from individuals, businesses, and other organizations throughout the year. The few weeks before Christmas, they open their warehouse to families and groups to come “shop” for children from families in need that they have been made aware of through schools and other social programs. Your family gathers the toys for the children from their wish list, then you wrap and bag the toys for Santa to deliver later. Individuals volunteer to dress up as Santa, deliver the toys, and tell the Christmas story to the children in that family. I love how this activity uses a secular tradition to teach children about the real reason for the season.
It is really easy to get carried away by all the busyness and materialism that comes with Christmas. It is easy to focus on trying to make the whole holiday season perfect. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We started these traditions several kids ago because we were tired of Christmas being about what our kids wanted. We wanted this season of Light to be more about Him and how we can show His Love to others. It warms my heart so much now when we ask the kids, “So what do you want most to this Christmas?”
Their answer, “To be a light.”
Be a light this Christmas.
Christmas is about WHO, not what. As hearts are softened to God and His perfect message of peace and love, how is your family living out it is better to give than to receive this holiday season? We want to hear from you! What other ways does your family give during the Christmas season???