It’s Christmas morning. Piles of wrapping paper are strewn about the floor. Excited children are running around, shouting for joy over the new loot. You’re sitting with a nice cup of herbal tea, watching the whole scene play out. Only, instead of a smile, you wear a frown (and it’s not just because there’s a huge mess).
You know you should feel more joyful, but inside, there’s a nudging, a feeling that this isn’t quite right. Like maybe, this focus on gifts isn’t how it should be … because it’s true.
There’s More to Christmas than Presents
I remember the first time I realized that. We had just opened Christmas presents and I remember thinking, “Is that it?” I felt unsatisfied.
Admittedly, part of this was selfish, a desire for more, more, more. Mostly, though, I knew that my focus had been all wrong.
I had gone into the season consumed with what I was going to buy others, how I was going to stay under budget and whether or not I was going to have to return presents.
I ended the season wishing I had done more to help others, feeling like my relationships were suffering and wondering why our primary focus was on gifts.
It’s Simple to Change Christmas
Since then, God has brought some great Christmas resources into my life, helping me to shift our family’s focus from presents to presence. We realized that instead of focusing on the relationship with a person we loved, we were focusing on stuff.
One of these resources was a project started by an east coast Christian group. This group gave out envelopes with small amounts of money with the challenge to use it to change someone’s life.
I thought it was a wonderful idea and suddenly, it hit me, “What if we did that for Christmas?”
I brought the idea up to my pastor, a great man eager to do things that make people think and act more Christ-like. He loved it and quickly shared it with other pastors. Soon, it was a community-wide effort, with several churches participating in the Change Christmas campaign.
It was a huge success and those involved shared story after story of building and strengthening relationships with this new mindset. As you can imagine, I was blown away by the results and deeply honored to be a part of it.
Could You Do the Same?
It doesn’t have to be community-wide, church-wide, or even family-wide. It could just start with you and the desire to give more generously at Christmas. To make the focus not on presents, but presence. To celebrate the birth of our relational Messiah by loving others fully.
What if you set a limit for gifts? A small one that made you think, stretch and embrace creativity?
Could you give generously with only $5?
This, of course, is the question that pops up the most. How is it possible to create so much change with such a small amount of money?
The possibilities are endless, really, but I thought I’d share a few with you so you can see just how simple it is to make a big impact with a small budget.
Can you teach someone a skill? Even if a simple one, like how to make healthy cookies? You could use the money to buy ingredients and then spend the afternoon teaching someone you love.
Maybe you (or your husband) likes to do yard work. That $5 could be used to buy a pair of gloves to stay at a friend or family member’s house where you offer to pull weeds once a month.
If you love whipping up delicious desserts or mouth-watering soup, make a batch for a loved one or someone you’ve wanted to connect with. You probably have everything on hand but a few simple (cheap) ingredients.
But go a step beyond just giving it to them. Make a point to enjoy it together and spend the time building your relationship.
This was one of the coolest parts of Change Christmas. One group of people at a local church worked at the same clinic. They had a co-worker whose husband had just had surgery. It had snowed a great deal and neither had the strength to shovel the driveway.
These people pooled their money and paid someone to keep their home cleared of snow. Could you do something like that with your family?
It’s really all about loving each other and finding ways to build and strengthen relationships. One couple I know did this by purchasing index cards and a small box with their five dollars.
They took 12 cards, and wrote a group activity on each one (a combination of seasonal activities and your typical game night). After putting the cards in the small box, with dividers for each month, they presented it to her parents on Christmas. And then, throughout the next year, they spent time together, growing their relationship.
Even more examples of people giving relationally (for $5):
I heard so many great stories of people changing Christmas (and loving one another) with $5, including:
- Buying a sketch pad and colored pencils and drawing portraits.
- Buying a nice skein of yarn and making a hat and scarf.
- Buying a yard of fabric to make an apron for a little girl. Then inviting her over to make cookies.
- Buying a deck of cards for a Grandma with the promise to come play once a month.
- Buying a sister a $5 gift card to her favorite coffee shop and offer to watch her kids for the afternoon.
All it takes is love, creativity and action.