To get our hearts ready for Christ’s birth, Ann Voskamp is writing for us, celebrating the holiday that’s all about Jesus. Join us as we anticipate the coming of our savior.
Here is her list of ideas to help children understand that Christmas is about celebrating Christ’s gift to us, not about getting the latest toys.
1. A “Gifts We Already Have List”
Hang a long paper on a wall or on the fridge or back of door. Fill that list up before Christmas—with all the countless ways God blesses you all as a family. Count 1000 (or a bit more or less) of the gifts you already have this Christmas!
2. Thanks Mob the Neighborhood
Set out a basket of thank-you postcards and leave a pen and stamps in the basket. Add a stash of chocolate bars. See if you can empty the thank-you card basket, accompanied by chocolate bars, by Christmas—a thank-you card and chocolate bar for the postman, the garbage collector, folks at the hair salon, the crossing guard, the church janitor.
3. Love-in For a Shut-In
Adopt a shut-in this Advent. One person who is homebound or elderly or in a nursing home—and have the kids think of one thing they can do for that shut-in face to face over Advent. Sing Christmas carols with them one evening? Bring them a very small tree in a pot and every week of Advent pop in with one more meaningful ornament for the tree? Bring them a meal? Find a way for the kids to be face-to-face with blessing someone.
4. Thrift Gifts
Before every trip to the mall—check out one thrift store. Before any online order, check out ebay. Help kids to thrill in the hunt for thrifted gems—and see it as a way to make gifts keep on giving! Think “Thrift Gift!”
5. Lower Expectations to Heighten Joy
“Expectations kill relationships—and joy.” (One Thousand Gifts) Consider ways of sharing with the kids that Christmas is going to be smaller and holier this year. Set low spending limits for all gift-giving and make the creativity with little part of the Christmas fun. Live by the small rule: Only buy for Christmas Day what can be paid for by New Year’s Day. Lower the expectations to heighten the joy!
6. Giving Lists, Not Getting Lists
Spend quiet time with each of the kids thinking and planning on what they can give and how they can be the gift, give a blessing—so that they can live out the truth of: It is more blessed to give than to receive. What can they make? Bake? Create? How could they surprise? Bless? Who is on their Giving list? Let’s focus on our Giving Lists—and not so much on any getting lists.
7. King Gifts
Hear Jesus whispering it: “When You give to the least of these—you give to Me.” Consider how to make this Christmas radical—and get out the King’s Catalogues and get excited about giving bringing gifts to our King! Gather the family around with all the catalogues and make it a family birthday party for Jesus—will you bring the King a goat, clean water, a chicken, a Bible for a new Believer, a warm coat? “Christian hands never clasp and He doesn’t give us gifts for our gain because a gift can never stop being a gift—it is always meant to be given.” (from One Thousand Gifts)
Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife, the home-educating mama to a half-dozen exuberant kids, and author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, a New York Times bestseller, and new this month, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Named by Christianity Today as one of 50 women most shaping culture and the church today, she’s a writer for DaySpring, a speaker with Women of Faith, and a global advocate for needy children with Compassion International. Ann loses library books, usually has a sink full of soaking pots, and sees empty laundry baskets rarer than a blue moon.