The twenty-fifth of December of each year is celebrated as Christmas day throughout the world. It is a day set aside to remember the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the one sent by God as the savior of the world. Yet, for many, particularly younger children, it is a day highly anticipated to receive gifts that have been desired during the year. The focus for many is on getting as many presents as possible. But giving should also be a part of the Christmas experience. Children can and should be included in the giving as well as the receiving of gifts at Christmas time. What spiritual benefits can come about from making children a part of the process of giving at Christmas time?
The essence of Christmas is the love of God
Giving to others is a clear reflection of the heart of Father God. The essence of Christmas is the love of God that caused him to give his Son to the world and this is most clearly understood in choosing to give to others.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The Bible clearly teaches that love is at the center of who God is and it is exactly this love that led the Father to send his Son to the Earth to take on a human body, to live among human beings, and eventually to give his life for the sin of all people. It is in giving to others that a child can begin to understand the heart of who God is. It helps them to see God as caring and loving with a soft heart for the needs of others. Giving enables children to think of God as a caring parent whose heart is broken by the pain of human beings and who acts to take away that pain. Giving at Christmas time reflects a heart that has been changed by God.
Giving at Christmas reminds children of what Christmas is all about. It points their minds back to the Christ child who is the greatest gift ever given.
“She will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus is the center of Christmas
Jesus is the center of Christmas and giving recognizes that Jesus came as the gift that all mankind needed desperately. In being involved in the giving process, children take their minds off of their own wants and put them on the needs of those around them. It reminds them that the story of Christmas is about taking the mind off the self and focusing it on those in need. The story of humankind is one of turning away from God’s right path and living in rebellion against a loving and kind creator. But the story of Christmas is of God acting to counter that rebellion and make a way for human beings to be restored to the right fellowship with their creator. It was accomplished through the act of giving Jesus to the world and in giving children understand the true heart of God.
In including children in the process of giving at Christmas time, children learn the importance of being involved in living out the salvation that is theirs because of the gift of Jesus and his sacrifice for the world.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Spreading Gift to Others
Children need to learn that salvation is not just about receiving a great gift, but also about spreading that gift to others. At Christmas time the act of giving to others helps to show that true joy comes not merely from receiving from others, but in giving to others as well. The process of salvation is not merely a one-time act of making people right in God’s sight, but an on-going process of people becoming like God in all that they do and think. As children participate in acting out what God has put in them, they experience the joy that comes from meeting a need in others and helps them to grasp that true happiness in life comes not from accumulating for themselves, but in using what God has given to bring happiness to those around them.
Being a part of the process of giving to others reminds children that the gifts that they receive at Christmas time come with a cost. It cements in their minds the truth that gifts require effort and sacrifice on the part of the one giving the gift and this will help to develop an appreciation toward those from whom gifts are received at Christmas.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though, he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).
Jesus set the tone by humbling himself and being a servant to the world. This example is driven home as children participate in the process of giving up time and as possible money to either purchase a gift or help in making a gift that can be given to others. By choosing to sacrifice and serve others, children are acting like Jesus and following in the example that he set in his life. In setting their minds to serve others as Jesus did, children are establishing a foundation for how they will live for the rest of their lives. In giving away rather merely taking in, children learn to hold what they have lightly and always be willing to give away to those in need. In giving and serving as Jesus did, children will see their world transformed and will feel closer to the God who gave them their salvation.
Including children in every aspect of Christmas opens their eyes to the world around them. The process of growing into adulthood involves increasingly being more involved in the lives of others and less focused merely on personal desires.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15).
The goal of spiritual maturity is to become like Jesus Christ in every way.
By inviting children to become a part of the giving process rather than merely relegating them to the role of receiving only, children receive the message that there is more to their spiritual life that merely getting from God. Giving makes children active participants in life and enables them to be a part of passing on the riches that they have received. In giving away physical goods, children are reminded of the greater importance of giving away spiritual gifts to those who are in need. The more that children become a part of the entire process of the Christmas experience, the more they mature into strong people and strong believers in Jesus who came at Christmas. Giving helps children to take their own spiritual experience to higher and higher levels and makes them a source of the light that came into the world at Christmas and is still available to all who will receive it.