Every year we read the Christmas story and pray before anyone opens a single gift. Reluctantly, I admit that was the depth of our Christmas tradition. I spent countless hours, months before Christmas, turning pages of retail, seeking the best price for whatever items I wanted to buy. Yet, only about 15 minutes reading the Christmas story before we opened the gifts. For as long as I can remember, Christmas day was all about opening presents.
Last year, almost to the day, I remember mostly all the presents had been purchased. I was worn out from the shopping, and growing even more weary from the “I wants” and “Can I have’s.” Even my own. These questions began stirring in my heart.
What sets us apart from the people who celebrate Christmas, but do not even know Christ? What is this season really about? Who is it really for? I say it, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But how do I live it? And what example am I living for my children? We buy them gifts that only have temporal value, but what could we give them that would have eternal worth? What impression could we leave that would take them into a lifetime of service to Christ — the only reason we have Christmas.
“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. We want something else which can hardly be put into words…” C.S. Lewis
I had everything I could possibly want, and yet still, just a few weeks before Christmas last year, I felt empty. I knew there had to be more. We do not need more things. We need more of God.
“Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a “different kind of sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.” Hebrews 13:16 (Message)
We made a decision that we would journey to a different Christmas. We purposed to intentionally make Christmas about Christ — for Christ. In giving to others we give to Him. It has not been easy, but God is confirming this in our family and in the changes we’ve seen in our children.
One of the ways we’ve given is through something I call The Jesus Jar. All year we’ve been collecting money in it. It sits right next to the laundry room change jar, where I’ve collected change for years, anyway. Now, once that jar is partly full, it gets emptied into the Jesus Jar. We encouraged the children to give offerings in it, too.
All year we collected and waited to count it until after Thanksgiving. The money in the Jesus Jar went to buying gifts, but not for ourselves. The money went to buying gifts for others in need. We allowed the children to choose gifts from a catalog — gifts that would give hope to someone. Gifts that change lives. Gifts that may mean the world to someone else. Gifts for Christ, for when we do it for the least of these, we do it for Him.
And this I pray, becomes more than a Christmas tradition for our family, but a way of life, believing it is more blessed to give than receive.