It's that time of year to start thinking about the holidays. Thanksgiving will be upon us in another month and Christmas will follow on Thanksgiving's heels. As I contemplate this time of year, there are several thoughts I'd like to share with you.
First, I'm saddened by the number of stores that are deciding to open on Thanksgiving to start the Black Friday rush. I don't hate Black Friday as some people seem to but I do hate what it seems to do to people. The selfishness and greed and hatred of others that dominates on that day is a sad way to end our day of national thankfulness. Here we are, a nation that God has blessed beyond imagination, and we're willing to trample someone to death if it means we get the "toy" that we have our eye on. It must truly grieve God to see us on that day, and I hope it grieves all of us as well. As Christians, I don't think we should necessarily avoid Black Friday shopping. Stores do have some good deals and on a grander scheme, it does give a boost to our flagging economy but please, keep in mind that we are to love people and use things, rather than love things and use people.
Second, and related to the first, as you're picking out gifts for your friends and family this year, keep in mind that there are people in our country and around the world who are desperately in need. Spend some time praying about what organizations you'll support this year. Christmas is not about us. God gave us the incredible gift of His Son and out of His love for us and our love for Him, we are to love and serve others. Practically this means giving to organizations that send food and clothing and medical supplies to people living in poverty. Or perhaps your church does a coat drive at Christmas. Buy a coat and throw it in the bin. Maybe you know of a single mom who's struggling to make ends meet and doesn't have the money to get gifts for her children. Buy a gift for the kids and maybe even one for the mom.
Third, it's important to be an example for your kids when it comes to gift giving at Christmas. As a kid growing up in a family of eight, I remember my parents being generous even though we didn't have a lot of money. I remember them giving to Angel Tree, an organization that's part of Prison Fellowship and that purchases gifts for children who's parent(s) are in prison. That made an impression on me and my husband and I now give to that organization at Christmas. My parents and siblings and I would also do a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. At the time, I was conflicted. Here were children that I didn't even know getting new things or things that I didn't even have. But I was also happy that we were giving to children in poverty at Christmas. Again, that made an impression on me. For the last few years, my husband and I have put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. We also support this really awesome organization (Samaritans Purse) that puts out a catalog of different things you can purchase for people in poverty. We always like to buy a goat or some chickens that will be given to people so they can have a sustainable food source. I don't say all this to brag about what we do but to brag on my parents. I had a good example of what it means to love and serve and give to others and because of that, my family will continue that legacy. I will teach my son the importance of giving by being an example to him as my parents were an example to me.
'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'