As one who is easily distracted by shiny things, this season is particularly challenging for me as I sort through traditions that are dear to the fabric of my upbringing, parenting and grand-parenting while balancing the lure of extreme commercialism and marketing strategies against the sacred longing to use the season of Advent to draw even nearer to the Savior of the Cross of Easter.
I believe one antidote for getting sucked into the vortex and being carried away with the glitz is to make the concerns of others, especially outside of my usual circle of friends and family, a priority.
I was so happy to see that our church was taking in boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child this year. Our boxes are due at First Christian this Sunday, November 21st.
You can use any shoe box, and it’s nice if you wrap the exterior in decorative paper…just wrap lid and bottom separately so it can be opened.
Target, Walmart, the Dollar Store…anyplace that sells the shoebox size plastic bins with lids.
Then you can fill the box with as much as you can squeeze into a shoebox!
The Operation Christmas Child website has guidelines to help you, and age categories for boys and girls…no food items, war type toys, liquids…
You can print off a label from the website and enclose a check for $7 to Samaritans Purse to help with shipping…and if you have mailed a package in the US recently, you KNOW that’s a bargain!
Most importantly…they encourage you to include a picture and a note….
On Sunday at church we watched a video of a young woman who received a box as a little girl. She still has the stuffed animal that was in her gift…but the thing she remembers most is that the people who sent it said they were praying for her.
She was not a believer, but came to receive Christ later in life. Her heart was opened by the wonder that someone on the other side of the world cared enough to shop for her and pray for her.
The stories of what it means to these children to receive a wash cloth, socks, their own toothbrush…is humbling when I think of all that we will lavish on our family who already has much.
Now maybe you are like some who would say…why don’t you give to people here in this country. And I do. But I was convicted in my heart by this video and so I know it was a great joy to me to shop for these two children that I do not know.
I cried as I prayed in the aisles of the store debating what color of socks the girl might want and hoping the boy would be the right age and size for the things I had selected. As I wondered where they would be using the soap and washcloth, and worried that someone might take it from them, these two unknown children became real to me and I prayed for them as I would pray for my own.
I will never see or meet these two…but I believe with all my heart that God led me to purchase what they need and He WILL speak to them of His love through this gift.
Maybe God is convicting you to purchase a coat for a child in your community. Or serve food on Thanksgiving or Christmas day in one of the shelters. Or go use the gifts He has given you to bless a lonely place with music.
Let your heart be softened and tendered to be moved by Him in whatever HE chooses!
In a world where ranting and posturing and rudeness and cynicism and self-fulfillment are the norm…you keep your hearts tender and do what God leads you to do….and keep doing it…long after the tree is out by the curb…long after the red cups have run out and people have moved on to some other reason to get riled up….long after the Christmas cheer has turned to thoughts of spring…YOU be the one who keeps on following the whispers of the Spirit of God…in your home, in your city, in your country, in your world…