It is interesting how the birth of Jesus has come to support gift giving, elaborate decorations, and jolly old Santa Claus. Certainly, believers and many non-believers alike enjoy the music, the festive atmosphere, and the joyous spirit and family traditions that Christmas brings. Giving gifts also helps drive economic growth, brings profit to corporations and small businesses, puts smiles to the faces of many children, but unfortunately increases the debt of many families already struggling to cover their monthly bills.
Only two of the four Christian Gospels highlighting the life and ministry of Jesus even mention the birth of Christ. The only gift central to the Christian faith, is the gift God gave us. He sent His son that believers might find forgiveness, salvation, and a right relationship with God. But what was expected in return for that gift?
When two of his disciples asked to be specially honored, Jesus reminded them of what is truly important, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Who are Christians to serve? Jesus certainly didn’t promote giving gifts to family and friends we love or to the mighty or the rich who could benefit us in return. He said, “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
Wherever you live, there are ample opportunities to enhance your Christmas experience. Help prepare and serve a Christmas meal at a local mission. In Ventura County, CA, you can share your love and generosity by providing toys for under-resourced families through ACTION’s Community Christmas Shoppe ( www.actionvc.org). ACTION, partnering with local social service agencies, identify under-resourced families and invites them to participate in the Christmas Shoppe. This year, on December 9th and 16th, invited guests shop for new toys, sporting goods, electronics, and more at no personal cost. Want to help, donate a new, unwrapped toy into one of the many collection boxes in the community.
But Jesus was not into limiting service to one season. He wanted his followers to live out Christian service every day. Christians aren’t saved because they serve; they serve because they’re saved.
ACTION’s core program is “Serve Every Day.” On every day of the year, you can go online and find a way to serve that makes a difference. Screened service opportunities are listed, and volunteers can pick an approved project that fits their skills and time available. Every year, ACTION connects thousands of volunteers to local service projects across Ventura County and meet the needs of tens of thousands of neighbors in need. That is America at its best, and they’re ready to help other communities replicate their model.
Lutheran Social Services of Southern California helps coordinate with area churches and synagogues a Winter Shelter program every night during the winter months. They provides a place to sleep and evening meals for individuals and families in need. If you can cook or serve, there is a place for you.
Some corporations go beyond a profit motive to drive a mission of service. Thrivent is America’s largest fraternal organization and is committed to connecting faith with good finances and good service. Not only do they have competitive and high-performing insurance and investment products, they help their clients make a difference in their communities. Any Thrivent member can apply to become an action team. The company supplies $250 in seed money to get the project up and running. That’s a gift of service that keeps on giving all year long. Living generously is not just a slogan for the company; it drives their mission.
Glenn Beck provides a needed perspective, “The real meaning of Christmas isn't just about the baby Jesus. It's also about what we do with the knowledge of the Christmas story. We should instead be on the lookout for those in need: the poor, the needy, widows, orphans, loners, the rejected, the suffering, the lost, the angry, the depressed, neighbors, strangers, brothers, sisters, co-workers, friends, and yes even enemies. And we should help and love them because God first loved us. Just doing that alone will shine a giant spotlight of hope into a dark world."
Let’s join together this Christmas to commit to a new tradition—a heart of service all year long.
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