40 Days of Prayer: Day 39

Merry Christmas Eve! It feels like it’s only been 366 days since I last said that. That’s not true, is it? No, the math is right. 2016 is leap year so there has been 366 days since I last said, “Merry Christmas Eve!” The feeling was not right. It doesn’t “feel” like it has been that long since I said it. In fact, it “feels” like Christmas just happened a few months ago and now its back. “You’re slow as Christmas,” was a put down when I was younger. But now it seems like a compliment.

Christmas gift

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. The music, the lights and decorations, the sweets, the food, friends and family really do make it my favorite time of year. As a kid, I would have emphasized the presents. Well…my presents. They were important. As an adult—which I have been accused of being from time to time—I see presents differently. Before you think I’m being super spiritual, I’ll admit that some of it has to do with me being super cheap. I don’t believe that we have to break the bank so our kids can have more plastic stuff.

I do like giving gifts, though. It’s fun to see the look on a person’s face when they are surprised by generosity. The best gifts, however, are not always wrapped. How do we teach our children that? Is there a way to show them the joy of giving at a young age? I believe that there is, but it will take some work and some creativity. Here are a couple of ideas:

1.) Take time to help someone this Christmas. It’s easy to exchange gifts with people because you get something in return. Try helping someone who will not help you. Get your kids involved but not in a sad, sappy way where they feel sorry for the other person because they don’t have stuff. If we teach our kids to give to others just because they don’t have something then we are teaching them that having something is better than not having something. Make it about relationship. Absolutely give to those in need but don’t just drop it off; take time to get to know the people.

2.) Invite another family over for dinner that you wouldn’t normally invite. They don’t have to be poor. The middle and upper class need real relationships, too. Just make it clear that no gifts are to be exchanged. Instead, prepare a meal and let the kids—all the kids—help make a dessert afterward. Then play family games together.

So, why so much emphasis on relationships when the topic is giving? The early church understood Jesus’ words about giving to mean so much more than giving money to people without. Notice the use of the word “weak” in the verse below and ask yourself why the word “poor” wasn’t used instead. The truth is that no one has ever really been considered weak because of the lack of money or property. Had the poor been the intended recipient of the generosity, then “weak” is a poor choice of words. People who struggle are weak. People who are lonely are weak. People who are isolated are weak. People who don’t know Jesus are spiritually weak. It’s time for you and me to make giving about more than just money. Our time and energy used to strengthen healthy relationships is the greatest gift that we can give anyone.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

— Acts 20:35 (NIV)

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