As far as I’m concerned there is a good deal of magic involved in Christmas. Each year I’m giddy to get the tree up, despite the needle pokes and the frustration of lights that worked when put away and now don’t. Some twinkle lights brighten the dull spots of my spirit.

I’ve always loved Christmas, but once I became a parent it took on deeper meaning. I really wanted to create a sense of wonder. I wanted to build lasting memories and traditions. While giving gifts is part of that, I didn’t want it to be the focus. Which as anyone with children knows, the gifts can overshadow the things of real importance.

Christmas starts creeping into stores in October. Our decorations go up in November. There is a big build up, and boom, a few days of celebrating, and its over. If you’re lucky you got something, maybe something special you really wanted or something practical you needed.

There are always things we want and wish for. Christmas can be a time of year when some of those wishes come true. We have been fortunate to be able to make those Christmas wish lists a dream come true for our son. While we don’t feel any obligation to get every item, we have enjoyed the ability to get the main things. You know the ones, they are highlighted and circled in ads, oohed and aahed over during commercials. And the anticipation of seeing a his face light up with joy makes sacrificing my own list worth while.

However, with all of the ads and the commercials it is easy for kids to get caught up in the getting and not the giving. This year I decided my son and I would take part in Operation Christmas Child. For over forty years the Samaritan’s Purse has helped the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. Operation Christmas Child is one of their methods. You simply pack a shoe box, drop it off, and they distribute it to one of over 100 countries in the world to a child who truly needs a gift. Boxes are collected each November, this year the deadline is November 21st! By offering food, medicine, and other assistance to those in crisis the organization gains the opportunity to share the gospel. These shoe boxes give a lasting message of hope.  

Together we watched this video.  It tells the story of a seven year old boy named Terry from a place we knew nothing about. It shows how this boy’s simple prayer was answered by receiving a shoe box.  Terry touched our hearts and as we watched I knew this was one of the better traditions I’d started. There is a moment in the video when once each child has received a box and they are counting down to open them and we talked about how excited they must be.

christmas-child-cartThe pure joy as we watched these children open their little treasures, truly what Christmas is all about. Not that my son needing convincing, but the video certainly gave life to my suggestion. So off to Target we went to get our first Christmas gift of the season. A gift for a child we didn’t know. A gift that would travel far from us.

Since we had selected our recipient to be a boy between 5-9 I had an expert shopper as my partner. We agreed that a stuffed animal was a must, since a child without something to snuggle with just didn’t seem right. We also got a ball, a small Lego set, a tablet of paper, markers, crayons, mints, a Hot Wheel, a toothbrush, and a storybook Bible. A collection of small items, similar to the little goodies I would put into my son’s stocking. My son asked thoughtful questions as we shopped and we opted to avoid things that required batteries, since it might be disappointing when there were no more quit working.

packing-boxWe added a couple more items from home. A bar of soap and those little tubes of toothpaste you get from the dentist. These items made my son pause as he struggled to imagine them as gifts. It was sinking in how little our recipient had and the abundance at our disposal.

We opted to pack our gift in a plastic box, partially because we had no shoe boxes and partially because we thought a durable treasure chest might be nice. My son asked for tissue paper and a bow, he wanted it to look and feel special and that warmed my heart. We included photo of our family and completed this fun letter provided by Samaritan’s Purse that serves to introduce the giver to the recipient. Lastly, before dropping off our box we will pray for the child who receives it.

My son is full of questions regarding where the box will go. We paid an optional $7 to track where the package ends up. So our lesson in giving will come with a geography course. There is also the option of donating $6 and that pays for a 12 lesson bible study. If you aren’t able to get a box together in the next couple days, you can donate and build a box online.

teddy-bearI may not get my house decorated as Pinteresty as I’d like to, I will for sure eat too many cookies, and it is likely I’ll get a little caught up in the hustle and bustle, but I got this one thing right. A child we don’t know will know someone cared. This gift may brighten his day or it may influence his future. Our son will continue working on his wish list, as every child should, but he has some perspective now that he didn’t before.

The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) paints a picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise.” You have a few days to pack a box of your own. I really hope you go and do likewise.