The Christmas season is peppered with gift-giving to loved ones and those dear to us. But it’s also a very important time to “pay the blessings forward.” Is that part of your holiday experience? To close out another year of producing Adventist Review, members of our team share their holiday experiences—precious traditions and ways to pass the blessings along to others. We hope it will inspire you to make new Christmas memories that are just as much about giving as they are about receiving.—Editors.
Several years ago we decided with our teenage daughters to change the way we do Christmas gifting. Each member draws one family member’s name and buys a special gift for that person. We usually put a monetary top limit on this gift. Then we put the remainder of the money we all budgeted for more gifts into a bucket, count it, and spend one joyful evening selecting several meaningful gifts from the ADRA Christmas gift catalog, thus blessing others. It’s a great way to remember that Christmas is all about giving to those in need, not gifting those who already enjoy plenty.
Gerald A. Klingbeil
Over the years, during the holiday season of gift giving, we have always welcomed the opportunity to lend our musical talents to numerous cantatas and musical programs with the hope that others would be blessed. We have also consistently identified and delivered gifts to needy children as well as participated in the church’s food, toy, or shoe box gift-giving programs.
For the past couple of years, my husband and I have done a mega shopping trip at Costco for food and food-type gifts (fancy cookies and chocolates) to contribute to the OneVision program, where the items are distributed to needy families. I’ve made almond/coconut cookies, wrapped them in pretty cellophane tied with red ribbon, and delivered them to our neighbors with a Christmas card and holiday greeting!
One of my favorite holiday traditions is our family’s “gratitude” jar. Starting in January, we write down any answers to prayer or divine interventions we’ve recognized. Carefully folding the paper, we place it in a special jar. It’s exciting to watch the pile of papers build over 12 months. After worship on Christmas Eve, we take turns drawing from the jar and reading aloud the praises we’ve written. It’s a wonderful reminder of God’s grace and care!
On Sundays since 2015 we’ve been going across the English Channel to the town of Dunkirk in France as often as we can. This is where a lot of the Syrian (and other) refugees “camp” waiting to find a way to cross the channel into England. In collaboration with the local ADRA effort and Newbold church, we’ve been helping with bringing the refugees a warm meal and also listening to their life stories.
We love shopping for children. So whether it’s coats, toys, or food for families, we have made it a tradition to ensure children have a happy holiday. We also sponsor a child through Compassion International and give to their Christmas fund every year.
We like to find out if there are any families in need in our church and community or through other contacts and “secret Santa” them. What that means is we will find out what gifts would be of particular enjoyment to the children in the family and send those gifts anonymously if we can. Amazon makes this so easy too! It always feels good to pay forward all the blessings we’ve been given—regardless of whether the “source” can be traced.
I often volunteer my time for the UK-based homeless charity Crisis (crisis.org.uk). Crisis at Christmas provides a safe, warm place for homeless individuals to stay, hot food, and free health care. However, they don’t do this simply on Christmas Day, but for a few weeks leading up to Christmas and through the new year. Perhaps the most impactful aspect of volunteering at Crisis—and the reason I feel utterly blessed—is the opportunity to talk to those in need, to hear their unique stories; to simply be a kind, listening ear.
I’m blessed to be a member of a very active local church regarding community outreach and service. Our church’s community service team regularly feeds homeless individuals, holds free food pantries, and provides clothes and other necessities to local shelters. Although we offer these services year-round, we place a special emphasis on blessing others during the gift-giving season. We give a little extra and also focus even more fully on Jesus and His love. People are generally more open to receiving Bibles and other forms of Christian literature. The dog therapy team that my dog Brody and I have been a part of for six years also steps up its visits to hospitals, assisted living facilities, hospice patients, and children’s events during the season. Dogs are often dressed in holiday attire and provide a happy distraction in people’s lives.
My family likes to send anonymous surprises to people during the Christmas holidays, especially to those in need. The grandchildren enjoy baking cookies and delivering them to elderly individuals, and last year had an actual live Nativity scene in their front yard—yes, with a cow, rabbits, and a goat! They also distributed GLOW tracts and hot drinks to passersby.