We have a Christmas card delivery box at our church, a central station for Merry Christmas wishes and Happy New Year greetings.
Instead of us all buying stamps and mailing cards to one another, our church’s missions group sets out their own church post office hub. We leave our cards for each other in the boxes and give the money we would have spent on postage to a missions offering instead.
My kids love checking our “mailbox,” the slot that holds all of the cards in it for people in our church with last names beginning with J or K. I usually only have to check the box once a season. They stay on top of card delivery.
Years ago, someone spoke a few gentle words of truth to me about those cards and the boxes, about the giving and the receiving.
She brought to my attention a name, one person in our little congregation who loved checking the box, but didn’t often find a card addressed to him. He so eagerly checked that Christmas card box every single Sunday. Always with hope. Never showing disappointment or sorrow over the cards he didn’t receive. He rarely walked away with a card, though.
It is because of my friend’s loving reminder to truly show love that I address his card first every year when I write the names on the envelopes. I do not want to forget or neglect to give and love someone whom God so loves.
And this has been on my heart this year at Christmas.
Most of us as moms seek out ways to teach our children that Christmas is more about giving than getting. I’m in the thick of it. With four kids ages 6 to 15, I’m right in the middle of this training season, to keep Christmas about Jesus and His love.
For years, I’ve had my kids hunt through the gift catalogs from World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse, choosing what they felt passionate about giving that year: Soccer balls, malaria nets, goats, chickens and ducks, blankets, Bibles, school kits, and more. They had to do extra chores through the fall months in order to raise the money they would give to their chosen cause.
We pack boxes with Operation Christmas Child.
We send our sponsored children a Christmas gift.
Two years ago, we started a reverse Advent box, adopting an idea I had seen online. We start with an empty box and we pick a local charity to give to. Every day in December, we put an item in the box to donate to our chosen charity. Last year, we collected hygiene items. This year, we’re collecting wipes, onesies and other baby items for moms in need.
The ideas online are endless. Random Acts of Kindness Calendars. Volunteering at homeless shelters. Ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Toys for Tots. Caroling at nursing homes. And many more. We have so many ways to engage, so many opportunities to focus our hearts and minds on giving during the Christmas season.
But this year, I feel the challenge more than ever to make it personal.
I tell the Christmas story to preschoolers most years and as I do, I remember the simplicity and the beauty of the nativity. I see how God chose an ordinary young woman and a poor carpenter. How He announced the news to lowly shepherds. How He drew in wise men from afar.
The poor. The outcast. The foreigner.
This is who God chose to use at Christmas. This is who God invited to worship. This is who God drew in to be His witnesses, to see what He was doing.
Others missed it, sleeping silently, crammed into every possible accommodation in Bethlehem, totally unaware that “today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
So, our family keeps up the giving traditions. We fill our reverse advent box for moms and babies we do not know. We pack shoeboxes for kids we will not meet on this side of heaven. We send gifts and pack gifts and gather and give for people in need who remain nameless to us.
But there are also people I personally know who could use a Christmas card with their name on it this year.
There are people I personally know who could use some homemade cookies because no one else will be baking for them this Christmas.
Kindness from a distance and giving from afar can be so much “easier” and more “comfortable” than the vulnerable act of loving the neighbor we know.
May we find ways to do both.
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV).