As you look over your Christmas shopping list, do you ever struggle with whether or not you're buying the children in your lives too much or too little? Parents and grandparents alike have told me they wrestle with the question of how much is enough. Personally, I used to agonize over how much to buy my children when they were younger. I didn't want to give them too many gifts, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure they had a "nice Christmas." A few years ago, my definition of what a nice Christmas changed with the addition of one more gift.
Like many families, our family purchases gifts and makes donations to help the needy. In the past, we sometimes made these donations in honor of a loved one at Christmas. But in 2006, a family member jokingly commented that we should give these gifts in our own honor and give them a regular Christmas gift instead! The remark made us laugh, but it also made us stop and think. Who are we really honoring when we give gifts of compassion? The answer was clear. We are honoring Jesus. My husband and I decided to record the gifts of compassion and donations our family makes at Christmastime on pieces of paper and put them in a gift box for Jesus under our Christmas tree.
On Christmas morning, before we opened our gifts to each other, we opened our gift to Jesus. That first year, I read the papers inside the box with my husband and children gathered around. As I read the gift tag my eyes filled with tears…"Dear Jesus, we give these gifts to you in honor of your birthday…a shoebox filled with toys and the message of your love…mittens for someone who can't afford them…a goat for a poor family in another part of the world." As I looked across the room at my husband, I saw that his eyes were filled with tears, too. Our children sat quietly listening and watching us, soaking up heart-felt lessons: Jesus' birthday is Christmas day…when we take care of each other, we honor Jesus…we have the power to be a blessing in the world.
Giving a gift to Jesus melted away the pressures of commercialism. Suddenly it didn't matter how much we got the kids, everything was centered. It was centered because we honored Jesus with a gift of love, and then, in the spirit of love, we shared our gifts with each other.
This Christmas, I hope you'll put a gift for Jesus under your Christmas tree. Whether you have a house full of children, or you live alone, you can share a special, transforming moment with Jesus by honoring Him with a gift you select with the sheer intention of bringing Him joy. In the book that shares this tradition, The Sparkle Box, Sam's mother reminds Sam that Jesus taught us whatever we do for one of the least of our brothers and sisters we do for him. Nothing makes Him happier.
Like Sam's family, you can chose to purchase material goods that bring comfort or health to those in need such as mittens, blankets or water filters. If money is tight, you can think of something extra special to do that doesn't require money. You could adopt a grandparent at a nursing home, commit to shoveling a neighbor's driveway each time it snows this winter, or volunteer at a soup kitchen.
In Matthew 5:14 (NLT) Jesus gives us a beautiful message, "You are the light of the world—like a city in the night, glowing for all to see."
Share your Sparkle Box ideas at www.TheSparkleBox.com, where you can also find free printable activities and motivational materials.
About the Author:
Author Jill Hardie, her husband, and their two children began the tradition of placing a Sparkle Box for Jesus under their Christmas tree approximately six years ago. The first time they opened His gift, the commercialism of the season melted away and they experienced profound peace and happiness. It's Jill's hope that The Sparkle Box book will ignite a new Christmas tradition that helps center Christmas in the true joy of the season.
"There are many traditions that help us remember the remarkable and beautiful story of the birth of Jesus. My hope is that The Sparkle Box will help us remember Jesus as he is today – in the present. It encourages us to ask the question, 'What gift can we give Jesus on His birthday that will bring Him joy?'
Jesus taught us that whenever we do something for someone in need, we do it for Him. I think loving and caring for each other in His name is the greatest gift we could give to honor Jesus on His birthday."