“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
It’s Monday. Four days until Christmas. Last frantic days for feverish shopping. Or not….
While wrapping our Christmas gifts last week, a faint childhood memory crossed my mind. White tissue paper. Wrapped around cans of food. No ribbon, just all white paper. Carried to the manger.
Every year, our church held a special service before Christmas, in the evening because I remember dim lighting and candles. Members were instructed to bring food for a local charity, so we kids dutifully wrapped up canned items in white tissue paper ahead of time.
At the end of the service, everyone walked forward with our “gifts to the Christ child,” setting them in front of a manger. By the time we all finished, a small pyramid of white-wrapped cans and boxes filled the steps going up to the chancel.
I can still see straw in the rough-sawn manger, possibly holding a towel and baby doll. I can feel the awe and wonder of celebrating Christmas with Jesus, the hushed moment of going forward while the organ softly played carols. And I think we called it “White Christmas.”
Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, I used to look at Christmas “Ideals” books that featured illustrations of evergreen trees, gloriously heavy-laden with frost and snow. I thought, “This must be what Christmas is supposed to look like.” My first real white Christmas was decades later in the Tennessee mountains during our first year of marriage…such a delightful experience to watch snow coming down on the day. (Right now, there’s a slight chance in our forecast for snow showers on Friday…maybe we’ll see a few flakes this year!)
Even without snow, those “White Christmas” ceremonies of my youth at church were memorable. They meant giving a bit of ourselves…a tiny sacrifice to Jesus, a small gesture to help others in need. And we took it straight to the manger.
What could be your gift to Jesus this year? We all agree that 2020 has had a lot of lousy moments, taking a lot away from us. But it doesn’t have to end that way.
What if each of us shifted our focus from shopping for “stuff” to really helping others, in the name of Christ?
Consider giving a donation to a Christian ministry in someone’s honor. Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International, World Vision, and many others offer Christmas “gift catalogs” of essential goods to help hurting families around the globe. You could give a day of fresh water from a well in Africa. Feed a hungry infant or help a family survive a disaster. Plant a grove of trees or provide life-changing surgery. You can even give honeybees, baby chicks, or a goat for someone!
If 2020 has been a lean year for you, I get it…I remember the early days of marriage when our big splurge for the entire year was ordering out a pizza. But even in times of less-than-plenty, you can toss coins in the Salvation Army buckets or buy a little stuffed animal for your local toy drive.
The dollar amount doesn’t matter. Jesus doesn’t care if you give a million-dollar grant or a can of corn wrapped in white tissue paper. All things belong to Him anyway, so He’s only concerned with what place they hold in our hearts.
So, if you find yourself empty-handed this last week before Christmas, don’t make an emergency order online. And don’t rush to the nearby Stuff-Mart just because you feel obligated to have something in hand.
Just take a piece of paper, write a little thank-you note or “I love you” note on it, and tell your friend or loved one how they were honored with a gift of hope to someone in need. The best gift I ever received from my husband (except for our children) was exactly that.
Whatever your Christmas looks like this year—with family or in COVID isolation—take your gifts to the manger. Take your heart, too. Enjoy the privilege of serving Him with a little “white Christmas” gift to others…your birthday present to Jesus.
Lord, Your presence and salvation are the most wonderful Christmas presents we could ever receive. Help us to generously share Your joy and good news with others. Bless us with a Christmas Day spent with You. In Your name—Emmanuel—Amen.
Check out your favorite mission organization’s website for donation ideas, or go to these links:
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© Copyright 2020 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative