I distinctly remember a Christmas Eve many years ago with a blistering cold wind and snow on the ground. I was sharing a cup of warm hot chocolate with my grandmother. I think I was 10. We were discussing the virtue of giving and how it is the thought that counts. In my wise, 10-year-old brain, I agreed wholeheartedly. After all, it was Christmas Eve and that was the thing to say, right?

The next morning arrived and my younger brother and I scurried to the tree to open gifts. I had wanted a skateboard for months. There it was, with a metallic red bow, glistening at the back of the tree. I grabbed it, hugged it, and then read the card. “To Matt, Love Mom and Dad.” What? Are you kidding me? To Matt? Had they forgotten? Did they not care? A flood of thoughts raced through my mind. It was difficult to get through the rest of the gifts. Eventually I came to a box with my name, and yes, inside was a beautiful skateboard.

What I remember most about that Christmas is how my focus shifted from the giving to the receiving.

Staying Focused on the Joy of Giving

There is nothing wrong with wanting the picture perfect Christmas morning. But there may be something wrong with the basic picture. Are we focusing on quantity, trends, or dollar value? If so, we might be missing out on the best part about giving—the blessing.

Here’s a challenge to start this Christmas season to squash the gimmies and refocus on the joy of giving.

  1. Save Toiletries for the Homeless. Do your children earn an allowance? How about adding a travel size toothpaste or bar of soap as part of their payment. By saving these items all year long, your child will have 52 items to donate to a homeless shelter next December.
  2. Create a Monthly Coupon. Use your students’ skills and creative talents to develop a booklet of 12 coupons to give to an elderly neighbor or young mother. Coupons could include an evening of free babysitting, lawn mowing in the summer, or a picnic lunch once a month for a shut-in from church. The possibilities are endless and giving is spread throughout the year.
  3. Donate in Honor of Someone Special. Help your student identify a worthy cause to donate to monthly. Mark the date on each month of a 2017 calendar and work through the process together each month.
  4. Cook Up Some Fun. Casseroles and other family favorites can easily be turned into a freezer meal by cooking a little extra when you prepare the meal for your family. By freezing the extra portions, you have a meal ready and waiting for a family in need. Make it a math lesson as you increase the ingredients proportionately.

Giving gets a lot of attention in December, but we are called to teach our children selflessness on all occasions (2 Corinthians 9:11).

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