As I mentioned in in my last celebrating Christ post, I cannot imagine a better gift for our Savior than to serve others in His name.
One of my favorite recent Christmas memories is the time a group of my mom friends contacted the local food pantry to find out what items were missing from their shelves. We then took our children with us on an ALDI shopping spree for the wish list items. That’s right. Seven moms, 1-2 kids each, and ALDI. Crazy, you say? Crazy fun & crazy meaningful. For everyone involved: the mamas, the children, the store employees and those benefitting from our outing.
Was chaos involved? Sure. See that little boy laying across the conveyor belt? (He’s yours, Amy Y. And I love it). Would it have been easier for each of us to just add a few of the items to our own grocery lists? Sure. But then the memory, the fellowship & the opportunity to discuss with our littles what we were doing & why might have been missed.
Reminds me of the post, Is It Worth It? by Ashley Ann. Have you added her blog, Under the Sycamore, to your reading list yet? Cause you should. As you can tell, I want to be another version of her when I grow up ; ). She challenges me. She inspires me. She makes me better. Kinda what I hope that I do for you on occasion…
Oh, and then there is this post about her family’s tradition of volunteering as Salvation Army bell ringers every year. Love her thought, “I’m still pondering all that I want their Christmas legacy to be, but I do know a few things I want to pop into their heads. When they think of Christmas I want them to be excited to celebrate the meaning of Christmas. I want them to know that we give because God gave. We can give not only presents, but our time and talents too.”
Time and talents. Gifts for a Savior. Perhaps sometimes even more than just writing a check, donating to a cause, or purchasing items on a list. The gift of ourselves: a living sacrifice, broken & poured out for others. And should it even be called a gift to him, but instead simply obedience to his commands? “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
“The word became flesh & dwelled among them.” Dwelled among. In the flesh. Not to be served, but to serve. And how did he serve? Not with his wallet, but with his very life.
Perhaps we could take celebrating Christ to the next level this year and strive to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Can’t think of a better time to start…
The following quotes from Hugh Halter’s book Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, help illustrate what I mean.
“Very interesting, isn’t it, how you can grow up your whole life studying the Word and still miss the Word, the person of Jesus?”
“This is a powerful insight any follower of Christ must recognize and embrace: Jesus loved the Scriptures as they witness to him, but his biggest fights were with those who knew the most Scripture. He had his fiercest battles getting them to put down the guidebook and look at the Word made flesh in front of their eyes.”
“He was actually suggesting that they didn’t know the Scriptures, though they had memorized them.”
“Here’s a surprising thought to chew on: you only know what you do.”
Hugh then offers this challenge at the end of the chapter:
“Pick one Scripture where Jesus asks us to do something and commit to doing that one thing once a week for three months. See how well you get to “know” that Scripture.”
And in the process, how well you will come to know him.
Where to start? Might I make a few suggestions?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
What does that look like? Perhaps this?
A family who chose to celebrate “A Different Kind of Thanksgiving” by participating in our local DHS’s program to get eligible children out of a shelter and into a home for Thanksgiving & Christmas. Just a day. A weekend. Loving on littles (or bigs) who cannot be with their mom or dad & do not have a foster home. Love in the flesh. Allowing children in crisis to dwell among you. Serving him with our homes & our hearts.
On a side note: I recently heard that this program has been extended to any weekend, not just the holidays. When our community group shared snow cones, crafts and some dancing under the pavilion at the shelter a few weeks ago, I got to see a mama & her son dropping off a precious young man who had spent the weekend in their home surrounded by a family. Me thinks the Savior was pleased and that family blessed.
Or maybe join in the efforts to find solutions to poverty in your area. Like this?
“The Open Table model surrounds a person living in poverty with 10-12 people like you and me, people who will walk with him or her for an entire year, sharing the load, guiding her toward actual help, like a job and a budget, personal responsibility, a safe place to live.” ~ Shannan Martin
“The individuals and families served by the Table are called ‘Brothers and Sisters,’ answering Dr. Martin Luther King’s call: ‘We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.'” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
A less formal approach might be possible. Your Sunday School class or community group at church investing in the life of one individual or family over the course of a year or a lifetime.
A few more ideas of how you might give with your presence (only a small sampling ~ mostly local).
1. Offer to provide transportation, housing or be a mentor to a woman in crisis. Some local opportunities: Crisis Pregnancy Outreach, Pregnancy Resource Center, and Hope Pregnancy Center.
2. As a family or group, adopt a widow in a nursing home or a shut in.
3. Become a foster family or provide respite for foster care families.
4. Prepare and share a meal once a month with the women living at The Madonna House.
5. Put on a pot of soup once a week and invite your neighbors over for dinner. Share your table & your life with them.
6. Volunteer to tutor a child once a week in north T-town in partnership with the Aim High Academy.
7. Be trained to offer one-on-one care and support to a person in need through the Stephen Ministries.
8. Adopt a block, especially in an elderly or impoverished part of town, and periodically go door to door offering hands-on assistance & love.
The opportunities are endless. And as diverse as the people he created. Our time & talents are the only things required. Oh, and our obedience ; ).
For those of you interested in training your littles to join you in using their time & talents, you might check out Katherine’s post about 52 Smiles. A year of kindness. She gives lot of specific ideas of how you might surprise, create, give, serve and thank those around you through “out of the ordinary acts of kindness each week.”
Not gonna sugar coat it. In the flesh is hard. It’s messy. Just ask Jesus. Your hands may get dirty. The dirt on his hands mingled with sweat & his precious blood. There is a good chance you will get burned. And yes, you might even cut yourself on the brokenness of the ones you serve. Heck, more than likely you will cut yourself on your own brokenness. But those wounds have already been redeemed by his blood. And what an honor it would be to identify ourselves with the sufferings & sacrifice & service of the Savior even as we celebrate his birth.
“As God incarnate becomes fleshy – ‘alive’ – to you, you will likewise become more fleshy to the world.” ~ Hugh Halter
Happy Birthday to Jesus, indeed!
Would love for you to add your ideas for giving with your presence in the comments section. Thanks!