A few years ago, I wrote an article for the Christmas issue of World Vision magazine. The article was about how we can all do something powerful in the world when we operate from a place of radical generosity.
As I worked on the article, I kept thinking about a sweet little book Rooney has in her room about St. Nicholas of Myra. We read it here and there throughout the year, but it now carries a special meaning for our family’s holiday season.
The book tells the story of the 4th century Christian bishop who inspired the Christmas gift-giving character of Santa Claus.
Born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey, circa 280 A.D., a man left with a large sum of money when his parents passed away used it to help the poor. After his death in 344, the legend of his generosity grew. St. Nicholas transformed into the fabled character Santa Claus, the beloved old man who brings presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve.
Over the years, while advertising and culture have popularized the image of the jolly, red-suited sleigh operator, many influences have made Santa what he is today.
And it’s surprising how easy it can be to get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas and lose sight of what is truly important.
I’m guilty of working tirelessly to try and set the right tone and atmosphere for my family during the holiday, without thinking beyond what lies inside and what hangs outside the four walls of our home.
We end up devoting a lot of time and energy into placing decorations, preparing events, preserving traditions and planning meaningful experiences for those closest to us, all the while missing the real blessing that comes from thinking like the original St. Nick.
If we aren’t careful, our attention can quickly switch to a focus on what we want, leaving little room for thinking of others and what they need.
So our family has decided to take a few intentional steps back to realign our hearts with the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit of the legendary gift-giver.
We wanted to make some changes to our Christmas season and awaken the joy that comes with generosity.
We decided that, moving forward, we needed to be intentional at Christmas about asking, “What can we give?” instead of, “What can we get?”
In perpetuity, we’ve decided to do what I’m calling a SANTA Switch.
See A Need. Take Action.
As a family, we decided that we will commit to 30 days of generosity to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by encouraging each other to 1) notice the needs of others and then 2) empower each other to meet those needs.
This has quickly become our favorite holiday tradition! It’s a fun and simple way to change our outlook not only at Christmas time but throughout the months that follow (Rooney calls out SANTA Switches all year long).
Challenge: Can we flip the focus in our homes during the holidays by saying YES to sacrificial living and giving? I think we can.
As the ones who set the tone and atmosphere inside our homes, we have a real opportunity to encourage our girls in this area.
To get in on the fun, here’s all you have to do:
1. Grab a journal.
It doesn’t even have to be Christmas-themed. The first one we used has a picture of a bicycle on the front with stitched letters that say Enjoy The Ride!. Keep the journal in your living room or other family space where you can keep it updated as things happen.
Any time you leave the house for school, work, the grocery store, to take a walk – wherever you go, say a quick prayer and ask God to help you to be more deliberate to slow down and see the people around you. Then you’ll notice when one of them needs something.
3. Notice a need.
When you’re going through the day’s activities, take note of the people, places, and happenings around you that aren’t necessarily connected to you being there. What do you notice? Where are you? Who else is there?
4. Take action to meet the need.
Whether it’s helping a neighbor unload groceries, donating clothes or food, or simply sitting with someone who is lonely or sad, DO SOMETHING that will take care of the need the person has.
5) Log each entry in your journal.
Keep an inventory of what happens and how God shows up as you live generously. Oh, how He can move when we love the people around us!
Christmas is not about opening gifts.
It’s about opening hearts to receive the love of Jesus and to shine His light in a dark and broken world that needs to experience Him.
Let’s share the love and gift of God’s Son with others by seeing the needs of others and taking action to meet them.
“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic his giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”
St. Nicholas of Myra
Remember, even one act of generosity can light up a life.
Have an awesome day!
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If you’re looking to make this holiday season more meaningful, I want to invite you to join me on Instagram for SANTA Switch 2021! I’ll be sharing your updates, stories, and SANTA Switch moments all month long, so be sure to tag me in your posts (+ use the hashtags #SANTASwitch and #SeeANeedTakeAction) so I can see what you’re up to!