Back in the days before internet or online shopping, Sears would send out their Holiday Wish Book every year. As a little girl, I couldn’t wait for it to arrive and see all of the wonderful toys just waiting to go on my Christmas list that year. It was mesmerizing!
Then sometime in late Autumn, the big day would come. My Mom would sit down with my brother and I and make our Christmas lists. Meticulously, we’d page through the catalog not wanting to miss an item. (After all, how would Santa know what we wanted if we didn’t write it down?) With the help of my Mom, we’d whittle our list down from practically everything in the catalog to the things we wanted most before we put our lists in the fireplace to send them off to the North Pole.
After that, all that was left was the waiting. Weeks of anticipation to see what Santa would bring. Back then, Christmas was all about the toys that were under the tree. Like all children, that’s where we found our Christmas joy.
Then I grew up. Christmas seemed to lose a little bit of it’s sparkle. As I matured, I realized that although presents were nice, receiving gifts just didn’t provide the same sense of joy that they did when I was a child.
Instead, I began to realize that it was more fun giving presents to those I loved. Christmas went from being about what I would get to planning and preparing what I would give. It was around this time that I began to really understand the phrase, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” During these years, I really enjoyed shopping for my family, planning surprises for friends, and finding ways to let people know that they meant a lot to me.
And then our Christmases changed forever.
My Mom went to Heaven, my Dad never liked the holidays, and my brother and I were basically left feeling very alone. I knew there was no way I could go through our normal holiday rituals without my heart breaking. Still, I didn’t want to ignore the holidays or ruin other people’s holidays because I was hurting so badly.
I’d heard it said many times, “If you’re feeling sad and lonely around the holidays find someone less fortunate and be a blessing to them.”
Every time I heard it I thought, “What a crock!” There’s no way helping others is going to make me feel better!” That year I found out that I was completely wrong.
After much prayer, my brother and I decided the best way to celebrate the holidays and honor our Mom’s memory was to do some of the things she taught us to do while we were growing up. Remembering that she gave toys to poor children when we were growing up, we participated in a local church’s toy drive. Instead of buying each other gifts, we went to Toys “R” Us and bought toys for kids who had nothing. It was a blast!
Then we used all of my Mom’s family recipes, the cookies we made together growing up and the other special holiday treats, and we prepared them for a party our church was throwing for some children in a low-income housing development. This party was the best part of our holiday! As we focused our attention on giving to others rather than on what we were missing, we were the ones who walked away blessed as we participated in these and other events. It really was a wonderful way to begin the healing process. That’s when we came to fully understand the truth that Christmas joy truly is found in giving.
This will be our fifth Christmas since we first learned this lesson. Even we haven’t participated in the exact same activities every year, my brother and I have formed the yearly tradition of finding a way to volunteer our time, and give to a cause or a family in need during the holiday season. As we’ve followed the Holy Spirit’s lead each year, we’ve always been amazed at what He can do with the small offering we give to Him. Without fail, we’ve always found that the best part of our Christmas season is found when we’re involved in a project that helps meet someone else’s needs.
Why am I writing this article?
Well, it isn’t to make ourselves look good, but instead, I’m hoping that it encourages you to find a way to do good. If you’re struggling to find the joy of Christmas, whether it’s because of a difficult circumstance or life change or the commercialism of Christmas has simply killed your joy, I encourage you to look beyond your situation and discover the joy in giving. Look beyond yourself, and allow the Holy Spirit to show you the needs of someone else.
Even if you can’t give money, perhaps you could give of your time. There are lots of ways to volunteer and plenty of opportunities to get involved. Sometimes a willing hand is more valuable than money---so don’t let your financial restrictions keep you from the joy of giving. In fact, volunteering is a great way to be involved in a holiday activity without spending any money. As you’re out and about helping out with the hustle and bustle, enjoying the decorations and laughing with the other volunteers, you’ll quickly realize that you’re celebrating Christmas---and possibly enjoying it more than you have since you were a child.
So this year, as you’re planning out your holiday activities and mapping out your holiday budget, I want to encourage you to give yourself the Gift of Giving. Get involved in an outreach, sign up to help with something in your community or church, buy some groceries or presents for a family that’s really in need, or give to a cause in which you really believe. After years of experience, I can guarantee that the joy and fulfillment that you will receive from these experiences will fill you with Christmas spirit all season long.
It’s unexplainable but true: Christmas joy truly is found in giving.