November means the sudden onslaught of commercials trying to get us to purchase this item or that. It means an increase in baking, shopping, preparing, spending, partying, planning, hunting. It is the month when we realize that the holidays are truly upon us and that the year is drawing to an end.
Although November heralds the arrival of our National Day of Thanks and the eminent arrival of Christmas, we ten to let the less important aspects of these holidays, namely food and getting the perfect gifts, get in the way of what we are actually celebrating on these holidays. Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks for all the bounteous blessings God has given us, family, sustenance, employment, health. Christmas is a day set aside to celebrate the gift of God’s Son. The gift of eternal life that He promises to each of us. Yet we focus on the food and the material gifts. No wonder so many people spend these holidays feeling depressed and let down. The holidays fail to meet their expectations.
I have a challenge for each of you. Make every effort this year to return to the true purpose of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Start and end these special days with prayer. After all, aren’t both these days centered around God and His Son and all They have given us?
2. Find ways to serve others. There is no better way to give thanks for what you have been blessed with than to give freely of what you have to someone who has little to nothing. Working in a soup kitchen. Help out with Meals on Wheels. Visit a hospital or a nursing home and give of your time. Volunteer to deliver toys or Thanksgiving turkeys with the Salvation Army. Look for opportunities to give of yourself to the less fortunate who aren’t able to celebrate as you would.
3. One of my personal favorites. Adopt a family for the holidays. We like to pick a family who is struggling or who have a soldier serving overseas. We start Thanksgiving Eve and deliver them a special treat for their Thanksgiving meal. Then we continue to deliver them gifts or acts of service all the way through December until the 31st. We do these acts of kindness in secret. It’s much more rewarding for our family this way. We make someone else the focus of our holiday celebrations and by doing so, find more meaning in the holidays for ourselves.
4. Focus on the homeless. Gather up donations of tents, sleeping bags, blankets, coats, food for those who are forced to cope with hunger and the elements this time of year. Not only will your gifts be appreciated but you will be representing our Savior at this time of year when He is supposed to be the focus of our celebrations.
5. Participate in local toy and food drives.
6. If you have young children, on Christmas Eve, have them pick one of their gifts from under the tree and take these wrapped gifts to a family with like aged children who don’t expect anything under their tree this year. Children are naturally compassionate and they will love the opportunity to see the smiles on other children’s faces. Involve your pastor, religious leader, or community leaders in finding a needy family to serve.
7. Go on a baking frenzy and bake enough to take to your neighbors. Not only will they appreciate your kindness, but you will be taking the first steps to developing relationships with those who live around you.
8. Adopt a soldier or a troop. Send Christmas cards and goodies boxes to a soldier or troop serving overseas. Your local recruiting station, armed forces base, or government official can help you find where to send these items.
9. Serve the orphan and the widow. So many individuals spend the holidays alone either because they have outlived their loved ones or they simply have no one to be with. Invite them to join you for caroling, parties, events, and for the holidays themselves. Include them in your celebrations and let them be part of your family this year.
10. Look for ways to serve in your community. Shovel out an elderly friend or neighbor’s car and driveway. Rake up the lawn of a family expecting or welcoming a new baby. Clean the gutters of a disabled person. Pick up trash and debris for a family who has their hands full with young children. Service doesn’t require your money, just your time and thoughtfulness.
This season, focus your celebrating on acts of kindness that will help you remember why we are celebrating in the first place. God works best through willing hands. Be His hands and experience the real joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. God Bless Us, Every One.