A family activity to share love with others at Christmastime (or anytime)!
Does anyone else struggle with Christmastime and wanting to do all the things?
When I first became a mom, this desire welled up in me to make sure my kids didn’t miss out on even one of the Christmas fun “must do” activities. December would hit each year and I felt like the manic set in for me. A voice in my head yelled, “We must decorate the house, do 100 Christmas devotions, open advent calendars each day, get a perfect Santa picture, make ornaments, sip on hot cocoa while Christmas carols play in the background, etc, etc.” I would see friends doing cute things with their kids on Facebook and I would add it to our list.
A few years ago, we knew we needed to simplify. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and I still do my best to pack in a lot of fun and meaningful experiences for the kids, but we had to stop and decide what would be our biggest priority at Christmastime. My husband and I felt so over the materialism and consumption of Christmas and wanted to help our kids focus on sharing Jesus’ love with others instead. I wanted them to learn from an early age the unsurpassable joy that comes from giving and loving others the way we have been lavishly loved by Jesus!
That December, we talked as a family and decided to spend less on each other at Christmastime and to instead focus on doing something special to bless others. We decided to take some time before deciding on our main Christmas activity.
Fast forward to a week or two later. It was a cold day in early December and we were heading to church where my son and daughter attended nursery day care once a week. As we exited the freeway and stopped at a red light, we saw a homeless man right next to our car.
Charlie quickly screamed, "Mama what do we have to give him?”
“Oh Charlie, I'm sorry. I don’t have anything,” I said.
He frantically cried out, “Give him my cookie bar from my lunch!”
I asked, “Are you sure?”
He yelled, “Yes, hurry!”
As I handed Charlie’s fig bar, aka “cookie bar,” to the man, Charlie popped his head out of the window and told the stranger to have a great day and enjoy the cookie bar. He asked him what his name was and we learned that the man’s name was Chris. The light turned green, we said goodbye, and as we drove away Charlie said a prayer for Chris by name.
I was moved to tears. Earlier that morning, Charlie had begged me to put a cookie bar in his lunch. He could have asked me to give the man another one of his lunch items like his carrot sticks, or his apples, or his sandwich, or something of Brinley’s, but he chose to give him the most favorite part of his lunch.
Isn’t it crazy when your kids just convict you completely? I want to be more like Charlie. I want to feel frantic about giving to those in need. I want to give away what I love most instead of the things that are easy to spare or that I don’t want anyway.
That was a defining moment for me. I was so touched by Charlie’s heart for the homeless that I decided we would always try our best to carry snacks or toiletries or water bottles to hand out to those in need we would see while driving. I was also so inspired that Charlie had thought to ask for the man’s name and vowed that from then on out, I would do the same.
That night we talked about our Christmas plans again and we all decided we should do something that would help people who were struggling with homelessness. Charlie and Daddy came up with an idea to make “blessing bags” to be able to hand out to people during the month of December and beyond.
So we hopped in the car and headed to Target and the Dollar store. We picked out tissues, toiletries, snacks, water bottles, etc. It was so heartwarming to see the kids so excited about shopping for people they did not even know.
My husband typed up a note of encouragement with an invitation to our church and the church address. As a family we stuffed the bags, printed out the notes to add to each bag, prayed over them, and then loaded them into the car. We put three or four of them on the floor of the passenger seat and stuffed the rest in the trunk.
We have done this the last couple of years and look forward to making it an every year tradition! My favorite part is finding out the names of the person we give it to. I keep a list on my phone so that all through the Christmas season, we can pray for the list of names of those who received the bags. We pray that God would reveal himself to those men and women who receive the bags and provide for their needs,. We pray that they might come to know Jesus for the first time or that they might come to to know him in a deeper way.
How to Make Blessing Bags
Grab the kids and go shopping. Let them help pick out the items and even contribute financially if they are old enough to have their own money.
What to get is totally up to you. Of course, this idea is nothing new. You can do a google or Pinterest search to find ideas of what to put in bags for the homeless. Here is what we usually put in ours.
• 10-20 hefty gift bags (you could also use freezer size ziploc bags).
• Warm Socks
• Warm Gloves
• Protein Bar
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Nuts or trail mix
• Face wipes or baby wipes
• Hand Sanitizer
• Water bottle
• Chocolate or other treat
• Typed or handwritten note and prayer
Go home, dump out the items, let the kids place one item in each bag. Type or write a note for each bag. You can read our note at the end of this chapter. Finally, gather around the bags as a family and pray for the people who will receive the bags.
This is an activity you can do at Christmastime or any time of year. The bags can be simple with only one or two items to make them more affordable. When you invite your family to start this new tradition, their hearts will begin to change. They begin to see everyone as someone who was created in the image of God. They start to put themselves in others shoes and feel genuine concern for others. Talking about the bags, handing them out, praying for the new people you meet helps to create empathy in your kids’ hearts and spreads kindness in your neighborhood. You might never know the ripple effect that these bags can have on the world!