‘Tis the Season

Christmas and I go way back. Sure, you say, every kid likes Christmas—but I’m going to guess not in the way I did. From the day the Sears WishBook arrived in mid-October, I was consumed. Not with the holiday really, or the meaning therein, but with the mere thought that on Dec. 25 I was going to get large quantities of incredible things.

The routine was the same every year: Mom would decorate the house with numerous themed Christmas trees; I’d be in a Psalty play at church where Psalty would teach us a meaningful lesson that all toys in the toymaker’s shop were special, even the weird dolls none of the kids wanted; and for no discernible reason, I would wake up on a predetermined morning and be given a lot of great stuff. And sometimes, a rock tumbler.

I loved it. My passion for consumerism got so bad that after age 6 my mom tried to rein in my desires by giving me a set budget up front. “This year, we’ll spend up to $250,” she’d say on a not-so-particularly-good year, and with those parameters in hand I would take on the budget as a personal challenge—spending countless hours earmarking and highlighting catalogs until they were barely recognizable, studying commercials, cost-comparing stores and dutifully informing my mom about any last-minute sales. I’d draft multiple wish lists, prioritize and reprioritize them, and mull options up to the last minute. It was a lot of work, but hey, I had one shot each year of getting a good haul of stuff—for free!—and I was not going to blow it. I made a science out of getting.

Noticing this natural inclination toward rampant materialism, however, my parents wisely implemented some Christmas morning traditions to keep things properly focused. Namely, no presents could be opened until the whole family was up, had eaten, read Luke 2 and prayed together. For a kid who got up pre-6 a.m. on Christmas morning, it was torture. Thankfully, my mom started putting Archie comics in my stocking (which I was allowed to open pre-Bible) just to keep me busy until I’d wake them up at 7.

You will be glad to know I’ve changed. Somewhere in the last decade or so, I actually started getting more joy from giving presents than from getting them, and yes, I now find great meaning in the spiritual and symbolic purpose of the holiday. Like normal people, I’ve come to embrace Christmas as a time we can slow down and spend time with friends and family, remember what Christ did by coming to earth for us and reflect His love in a tangible, sacrificial way to those less fortunate by volunteering and giving.

It’s a shame that for most of us charity work mainly comes to mind during the holidays—it’s something we should integrate into our lives year-round at whatever level we can—but Christmas is still a great time of year to go out of our way to make a lasting difference in someone else’s life. Living outwardly is something we can do both with our time and our money, so this holiday season, why not consider giving back in some way? Below are a few organizations that are doing great things year-round and could especially use your help this Christmas. (Post your own in the comments section.)

The greatest joy you will get this holiday season will be in serving others by giving of yourself. And let’s be honest, along the way you’ll be able to make up for some of those horribly greedy childhood years.

Second Harvest

www.secondharvest.org

The nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food annually to more than 25 million hungry people in the United States. By entering your zip code, the site gives you information on your local food banks, allowing you to get involved in your city.

Angel Tree

www.angeltree.org

At Christmastime, volunteers from your church purchase and deliver gifts to the children of inmates in their parent’s name. This Christian organization presents the Gospel to the families and children when they drop off the gifts.

The Red Kettle

www.ringbells.org

Grab some gloves and start ringing. The Red Kettle Christmas Campaign enables the Salvation Army to provide food, toys and clothing to over 6 million people during the Christmas season and helps more than 34 million Americans recovering from all kinds of personal disasters nationwide.

The Red Cross

www.redcross.org

See Also

As the nation’s premier emergency-response organization, the Red Cross’ aim is the relief and prevention of suffering. The organization is a tool where people mobilize to help their neighbors in emergencies—across the street, across the country and across the world.

Operation Smile

www.operationsmile.org

Operation Smile coordinates more than 30 medical mission sites in 25 countries annually. Last year, medical volunteers provided 10,000 free surgeries to children through international and local medical missions.

Meals on Wheels

www.mowaa.org

The Meals on Wheels campaign works toward the social, physical, nutritional and economic betterment of vulnerable Americans. What better way to spread that holiday joy than stopping in on the shut-ins or elderly and spreading a little classic cheer (and hot food)?

DIY

Some ideas you can do yourself: Reach out to your neighbors. Contact your local electric or water company to pay someone’s utility bills, or organize a gift card drive for your church or small group. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up an extra $20 gift card to give to a single mom. There are a million more ideas; share yours at below …

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