Without a doubt the greatest enemy of good, healthy, thriving relationships is … you!! It’s me! Ourselves. Our self-focus and our pride will, time and again, derail our ability to do relationships well.
We easily identify that in other people – in fact, you’ve probably even said it before in a heated exchange or about someone “all you do is think about yourself” or “why can’t you ever just admit that you’re wrong”!?
Pride is an expression of our selfishness because it is birthed out of our desire to either improve the way we feel about ourselves or protect the way we feel about ourselves. Continue reading
My Kids Hope friend was away from the school the day of our last session for the year and so I had to leave her Christmas present with her teacher. It was a bit sad not to be able to enjoy that moment of giving and unwrapping but I left her a little note telling her I was excited to see her again next year.
On Sunday, one of the teachers from her school who attends our church gave me a card from her. A delightful hand made one that thanked me for her “preze” (pressie) and said that she too was looking forward to spending time with me again in 2013. It was a beautiful, heartwarming thought.
It probably goes without saying (but let’s say it anyway) that gratitude is a great virtue to foster. It’s good for the person who IS grateful and it is so encouraging for the people that we’re grateful FOR!
Christmas is a time that we are given MUCH! Firstly, the gift of Jesus – the whole point of Christmas! In the Bible, Paul says we thank God for that “indescribable gift”! But then we are given a whole lot more. We receive gifts, we receive the hospitality of friends and family, we receive the love and relational connection of people near and dear to us … we get lots!!
Of course, we in polite society would always say ‘thank you’, but to foster a spirit of gratitude and to express gratitude takes a little more intentionality and effort.
But let’s do it!!
- Encourage your children to write thank you notes to people who’ve given them gifts. It will help solidify in their minds who gave them what as well as being a delightful surprise for the people who receive them.
- Take a thank you card or gift with you to the family who hosts your various celebrations. You know what it means to have people over for Christmas (that’s why you voted to go to theirhouse) so a little bit of thankfulness could go a long way.
- Take time to pray together and thank God for His indescribable gift to us at Christmas time.
The central message of Christmas is one of sacrificial giving. The God of the Universe gave His only Son, Jesus – born in a manger, killed on a cross, raised to life – so that we might experience the ultimate gift of Salvation. While all sorts of other things will compete to crowd out that truth … the reality of this incredible gift needs to draw us to a different heart posture and a different response.
The Christmas season provides us all manner of opportunities for self-indulgence or to facilitate the self-indulgence of others, it takes a fair degree of intentionality and a whole lot of clear communication to write a different story for ourselves and our families.
Here are some ideas for ways to foster an outward focus during the Christmas season.
- Give gifts that support other causes. Many organisations have developed creative ways to give to need locally and around the world through unique gifts such as a goat, a toilet, a well or a mosquito net given on behalf of friends and family. You can talk about them at home in the planning stage and then you have further opportunity to speak to it when the gift is exchanged.
- Serve together as a family. Shop together to buy food or gifts for families in need. Deliver hampers or food through your church or a welfare organisation. Donate time to wrap gifts in a shopping centre. Serve at a community meal.
- Open your home. Invite someone in who doesn’t have family to spend Christmas with. Include a family for a meal that might otherwise struggle to afford a more ‘special’ celebration. Do an ‘open invitation’ for a Christmas Eve or Christmas night drop in time so people have a safe and hospitable opportunity to connect with others over the celebration period.
- Perform random (anonymous) acts of kindness. Pay for the person behind you in the drive through at McDonald’s. Offer to return someone’s trolley to the bay. Leave $20 toward a person’s petrol while you’re inside paying for your own. Leave a cake or some Christmas goodies on the doorstep of a neighbour. Handwrite Christmas messages and post them or leave them under someone’s windscreen wipers.
- Include the WHOLE family in your planning and giving. As a family, discuss the ways you can be generous together – how will we serve, who will we bless? Wrap presents together so everyone knows what you’re giving to family and friends. Handmade is always a special touch – include children in baking/icing/decorating or in making cards, wrapping paper or tags.
What ideas have you seen/heard of? What have you tried yourself? What have you been the recipient of and how did it bless you? How can we make sure the greatest gift of all to us incites a gratitude that inspires giving?