When your favorite radio station starts playing non-stop Christmas music before Halloween, do you feel excited? When your neighbors decorate their house with lights at the beginning of November, do you feel behind before you’ve even started? Christmas starts earlier every year. It seems that each holiday season it gets harder and harder to really enjoy Christmas. There’s no easing into it. How can we open our hearts to a meaningful and worshipful celebration when we are dragged into the season against our will?
It is hard to get away from the stress that accompanies holidays. People who love God long to have some meaning or an interlude that reminds them that this is about the incarnation of Jesus. In the midst of such stress, we long for a Christmas “moment,” where we sit by the tree, sipping cocoa, and consider the mystery of “God with us.” We are grateful and full of joy. The shepherds went on their way rejoicing after they met Jesus, and we wonder if that kind of joy is available to us. What can we do that would help us turn our hearts toward God?
God wants us to learn a new kind of joy. When we give gifts that focus on God’s greatest gift to us, it’s a deeper way to show our love for Him. We know how to show our families how we feel about them. We tell them, we hug them, we give them special presents, and we spend time with them. So how can we let God know how we feel about Him? By doing those same things for those who are in need, the least of these.
There are many good organizations that care for the “least of these.” When you give to Bethany Christian Services you are protecting vulnerable children and strengthening families around the world. Through Bethany’s online gift catalog (www.bethany.org/experiencegiving), you can help save a child from slavery, or provide clean water, nourishing food, and life-changing education for those in need in countries such as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti, Ghana, and the United States. You can even give goats and chicken to support a family!
Living Water International (www.water.cc/) provides numerous avenues to give clean water to those living in developing countries.
Pray America/Manos de Jesus (http://prayamerica.org/) is a ministry in Central America that assists widows and children, providing housing, clothes, food, and health care. Through the ministry’s shoe factory, children are given the shoes required so that they are able to attend school.
Through ministries like these, we can extend the love of God—and the joy of giving—around the world. If we can enter the holiday season aware of how we spend our time and money, giving thoughtfully as God directs us, He will lead us to a new joy, a new way to experience a meaningful Christmas.