Recently, I read Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring to my children. As the story begins, Bilbo Baggins is throwing himself a 111th birthday party. Rather than receiving gifts from his guests, he delights in giving them gifts.
Christmas is an embodiment of this concept: God, born of a woman, giving Himself to the world He created. He asks us to be His hands, His feet, and to write checks on His behalf all year long. Especially at Christmas, I can think of no better way to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.
As parents we look for ways to teach valuable lessons about giving. We want our children to understand the generous nature of God, and desire to be part of it. They have learned from their very first earnings that 100% belongs to God and He asks that we return 10% to the care of His church while we get to keep the rest and determine its use.
Recently, we let them listen to missionaries from our church who are being sent out to minister in Jordan. We asked questions about the missionaries’ vision for service, but also practical questions about how they are raising support and what they need to do their work. We wanted to give young minds a peek into the process of doing mission work.
We teach through Operation Christmas Child, a chance for our children to think about another child’s Christmas wishes. Last year, we began the tradition of letting them choose where to give an extra Christmas gift donation. We told them they each would be able to contribute a financial gift to a cause they chose. We introduced various needs in our community and in the world. We sent them to websites and let them read appeal letters from non-profits.
My daughter was moved by the Syrian refugee crisis and chose to give to relief efforts in refugee camps. My son was pulled more toward a local need, the Flint water crisis in our home state. He opted to give to a local food bank.
As Christmas approached this year, my daughter asked if we would provide the money for her to give a special Christmas gift again. Christmas 2018 finds my son impressed by the concept of a matching grant, giving to Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree. Our youngest daughter loves animals and opted to give chickens to a family in the Third World through World Vision. Our older daughter took the research process very seriously. The deeper she waded into the options, the more overwhelmed she became. She came to us telling us she needed more money to give. She gave us a list of causes that moved her heart. We suggested she put together an appeal to give over and above the designated amount and to tell exactly what she wanted to use it for. She received an introduction to the idea of grant proposals.
Our hope is that our kids have caught the giving bug and, having done so, will prioritize giving on their own, forming lifelong habits.
But our new tradition does more than teach important lessons to our children. We are reminded that everything we have belongs to God. Just like our children, we also, are stewards of His world and its resources.
As we rejoice this season, we remember that God is even more generous than Bilbo, and that giving is the way we celebrate His gift.
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