Opening the tiny door on the Advent box, he pulls out a plastic communion cup. “Why’s there a cup in here? Are we going to talk about Jesus’ death today?”
Each day of Advent, my boys pull out a tiny object from our Advent box. These objects give them a hint as to what our devotional topic and activity will be that day.
“No. Actually, the cup refers to the passage I’m going to read today.”
I read to them from Matthew 25:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (vs. 34-40)
Every Christmas season, my desire is to have my children learn the importance of giving rather than getting. It’s quite difficult in our materialistic culture for children to do that. From advertisements on tv to the catalogues we get in the mail, our children are bombarded with opportunities to make toys and material items idols of their heart. Without a parent’s influence in directing their children’s attention to Christ and his birth, they would spend the entire season dreaming of gifts they will get rather than the Gift they’ve already received.
I want my children to be cheerful givers, to give not because they have to, but because they get to. I want them to give out of the abundance they’ve been given, knowing that they have all they need in Christ. I want them to hold their material things loosely because Christ is more important than any toy.
And I want them to know that the greatest gift they’ve been given is Christ himself.
Some of the things we like to do every year to practice giving:
1. We start the season by filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas child. I recently learned that if you missed the opportunity to participate this year, you can give virtually by visiting here.
2. Then we shop for the child we’ve chosen from the Angel tree at my son’s school. This year the child we chose was the same age and gender as my son. Giving presents that my son wanted for himself to another child was a good lesson in sacrifice and putting someone else before himself.
3. Since December 6th is St. Nicholas day, the past few years we’ve practiced being St. Nick by giving to others, usually by filling stockings and bringing them to a ministry that serves those in need.This year, the kids filled stockings with toys and treats for local children who are in need. The boys helped pick out everything and filled the stockings themselves.
4. The past few years, just before Christmas, the boys have given gifts to Jesus. Last year, they selected a gift from the Compassion Gift Catalog that they wanted to give to Jesus–water for a family. They saved their change all year and this month we went online and placed our order for it. They then chose something else to save for over the next year.
Giving is an act that doesn’t come naturally. We naturally want to serve ourselves first. It’s through the convicting work of the Spirit in our heart that we realize just how much we’ve been given. We then give from a cheerful heart, one that is overflowing in gratitude for all that God has done for us. This then is my ongoing prayer for my own children–that the Spirit would help them see how blessed they are because of Christ, propelling them to love and give to those who need it most.
How does your family like to give to others this time of year?
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