I pray that todays P31 devotion about the four special gifts we are given at Christmas touched your heart. Even though we normally focus on the Christmas story in Luke around this time of year, John 3:16 is a crucial verse to be integrated into everyones Christmas memories.
I want to share with you another reminder of a holy truth that we need to etch into our hearts this Christmas, and that is that all gifts from the heart. Spending time and thought picking out a unique and special gift for someone is so much fun this time of year. What a delight we feel when that person opens their gifts and we see their eyes light up with joy! But oh the joy we can receive when the gift we have given is intangible, personal and priceless.
I am on a mission. Maybe you can help me. I talked with my children a couple weeks ago and told them that I want them each to pick out some type of volunteer activity, and then help plan it, and then we will all go and do it together as a family.
Although we have participated in some self-giving activities in the past, like Operation Christmas Child, adopting a family for Christmas, donating canned goods and the like, I want to do something that truly impacts our hearts this year, and helps my children realize what gift giving is really all about.
I want my children to know that Christmas is not just about what is under the tree, but what is in the manger, and what that baby in a manger did for us. I want them to know that the reason God gave us the gift of Jesus, was so that Jesus could give the gift of life to us, so that we could give the gift of ourselves to others.
I emailed many of my Proverbs 31 sisters the other day asking for some volunteer opportunity suggestions from them, and they were full of ideas! Below are some of those ideas that they shared, and some that I came up with or derived from other sources. My family and I are considering which of these we want to take on, and since I am posting it here on the blog for all to see – now I am accountable for acting on these! I cant wait to let you know which ones we chose and what we experienced. So keep checking back to see what things we chose to do!
If you have any other great volunteer ideas for this time of year, please share them!
2. Talk to your pastor or school principal and find out if there is a family at the church or in the community that your family could “adopt” for Christmas. You would provide as much of Christmas for this family as you would like. Food, presents, decorations, etc.
3. Call around to the local retirement homes and find out if there are residents that don’t have family visiting them. You could bring a gift, music, books, or just sit with them and read the Christmas story together. Maybe they need help sending cards and gifts?
4. Call shelters and ask if they need help serving food or need blankets, socks, coats, toiletries, etc. As a family, you could help collect the items and/or serve.
5. Sing Christmas carols or read the Christmas story to a shut-in.
6. Secretly leave gifts or gift cards for families that you know could use a little help. Do this anonymously. Your family will have fun being Jesus and keeping the secret.
7. Ask a local store if you can stand outside and give out candy, cider, etc. You could attach the legend of the candy cane to candy canes and then give them out. Not everyone would let you do this but… it never hurts to try. Serving warm drinks to weary, stressed out shoppers on a cold day would be a welcome treat and a great example of the kindness of strangers.
8. Send cards to troops overseas and/or help the family of a soldier who is overseas. I bet they would love phone cards.
9. Visit children in the chronically and/or terminally ill ward of the hospital. Family members need time to spend at home with their other children and this provides them with a much-needed break. You can read to the kids or play board games or color or just talk to them.
10. Put together treat baskets for your local fire department, police department, teachers at school, staff at church, healthcare workers, etc. Anyone who serves in the community would be encouraged knowing that they were appreciated.
12. Visit with residents of your local nursing home or assisted living facility. A friendly smile and a little conversation goes a long way!
13. Invite a child or teen over for dinner whom you know will not have much a holiday this year. Allow them to join in with your family activities and feel the love of Christ in your home. This can open doors to share the gospel with them too.
14. Allow your kids to have some friends over for a little Christmas gathering, and give them each a takeaway item to take home that shares the message of Christmas with them (yes, even if it embarrasses them!). Teens especially, need to know that there is God who loves them unconditionally.
15. Contact your local Pregnancy Crisis Center to serve pregnant mothers in need.
16. Bake cookies for your co-workers and tie a bible verse around them with a pretty ribbon. Pray over the cookies and ask God to touch the hearts of those who recieve them. Dont worry about corporate repercussions, it is not against the law to share and live out your faith.
17. Invite someone whom you know does not have any family, or who is new to town and doesnt have many friends, over for Christmas dinner, or to attend your church’s Christmas Eve service.
18. Pick a child from an Angel Tree and donate the needed items.
19. Leave a really generous tip for your waiter/waitress the next time you eat out! You could also prepare a brief note ahead, or have a bible verse from the Christmas story available on a small piece of paper to leave with your tip.
20. Send a Christmas card to someone whom you have had conflict with in the past. Let them know you are praying for them during this special time of year and that you hope the new year and Gods love can help you kindle a positive relationship.
21. Take your family caroling to your local hospital, retirement community, or nursing home.
22. Make a shoebox of toys and essential items for Operation Christmas Child.
23. Sponsor a child through Compassion International.
24. Visit members of your church who are in the hospital, especially ones that would not expect you to visit them.
25. Offer to dog-sit for friends who are traveling during the holidays so they do not have to pay expensive kennel costs.
26. Contact your local United Way and see how you can help make the holidays extra special for people with disabilities.
27. Offer to run errands or drive an elderly or sick neighbor to doctor appointments.
28. Make some goodie bags with small food items or candy in them, and give them to the homeless standing on street corners or at stoplights.
29. When you see someone asking for food or money on the side of the street, drive thru a restaurant and get them a warm meal and take it back to them.
30. Next time you’re at a drive-thru, tell the cashier that you want to pay for the person’s tab behind you.
31. Reach out and be Christ to someone today, tomorrow, next week and always. Pray for God to make it clear to you who needs a blessing, and how you can be Gods vessel in blessing that person.