"Mom, if it's Jesus' birthday, why do we get all the presents? What does Jesus get?"
I'm not sure how I answered that question a couple years ago, but I know it made me really start thinking. How can we give to Jesus at Christmas?
Isn't it just like Jesus though, even on HIS day, to give US a gift? It was never about him...it was about us. He never considered himself, his own desires, his own suffering. He considered us instead. He gave even when it hurt. He gave to the point of death. He gave us everything, holding nothing back. He gave us the greatest gift...He gave us Himself.
It's overwhelming when I think about it. It makes me hurt and rejoice all at the same time. His LOVE simply amazes me! It makes me look up to heaven with a smile on my face, arms stretched wide and bask in the goodness of it...His love never stops shining on me!! This love that reached down from heaven and rescued me. This love that made me a new creation, a vessel that He molds and shapes and fills....fills with love upon love upon love.
But this filling up with love isn't like pouring water into a pitcher. No, it's like pouring blazing light into a vessel with a million holes....it spills out but never empties! It is love overflowing. And this is the gift Jesus gives us at Christmas. And with hearts overwhelmed and bursting with gratitude we say, "Jesus, how can we give back to you?"
And Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matt. 25:35-36,40)
That Christmas with those piercing questions from a child? It was like an ah-ha moment. How do we give to Jesus? We give to the least of these. We give like Jesus gave...not considering ourselves, our own desires, our own suffering...giving when it hurts, holding nothing back.
So we talked about it as a family. We talked about what we could give up and give to Jesus instead. We came up with an idea. We would give up our stockings! Instead of spending money on items for our stockings, we would give it away instead. On Christmas morning everyone found money in their stockings, gathered it up, pulled out the computer...right there on the family room floor with the family all gathered around, and picked out items for the least of these from the Gospel for Asia website...chickens, mosquito nets, bibles, blankets, tracts, a water filtering system, rabbits, etc. It was my FAVORITE part of Christmas.
Out of this came the idea for the Jesus Stocking. The idea being that we can be filling up Jesus' stocking all season long with money to give to Jesus...to the least of these...on Christmas day.
So last year I made Jesus Stockings as gifts...(I don't really sew, but made an attempt at it!)
|This is my brother's house with the stocking I made for them last year.|
Of course, I never got around to making a Jesus Stocking for my own family (you know how that goes), so we just use our crazy striped stocking since it looks different than the rest (the kids are already filling it up with money they have saved...can you see it stretching longer and longer?).
|We all had matching stockings at one point...then our family kept growing! So, we have an assortment of stockings. The "Jenny" stocking was the one my grandma made me and always used at her house when I was a little girl.|
When I gave the Jesus Stockings, I included a little letter explaining where the idea came from and ideas of how to use it. Apparently, I was not the first one to come up with the Jesus Stocking! (no surprise) There are many great ideas out there for using the Jesus Stocking to give to Jesus at Christmas. Here are some more ideas...
- You can write letters of thanks and praise to Jesus. Maybe you would sit down on Christmas Eve and pass out paper and pencils, or maybe it would be something everyone would do throughout the Christmas season as things come to mind. Young kids can write simple words of thanks or draw pictures. You can even invite friends, family and guests to participate as a way to share the meaning of Christmas with others. It's about God’s gift to us…and there is so much to be thankful for! (check out this article and this blog!)
- Another idea involves reflection and thought as you might consider what God would have you give to Him… a way of surrendering more of yourself to the Lord. Maybe there is a certain area of your life that needs to be surrendered to God, a sin that you have been hanging on to, or a new commitment you want to make to grow closer in your walk with the Lord. This is really His gift to us, as it is all a work of grace as He molds us and shapes us, making us more like Him. He gently leads us one step at a time. This could be an opportunity to ask God what the next step is that He wants to take us to. (check out this blog)
- If you want to collect money to give away to the needy, you might consider a way your family can earn money. Maybe a yard sale earlier in the year? Plan a "Rake-A-Thon" and find sponsors to pledge money for each hour you rake an elderly persons yard (you can join up with other families)? Check out this link to see what my kids did last year to raise money for the poor. Let us know any other ideas for earning money as a family!
May your Christmas be filled to the full with God's love, overflowing to others.