We hear it a lot. “This season is the time for giving!” It’s the season to be jolly. It’s the season to put some pennies in the bell-ringers bucket. It’s the season to donate coats and carol in nursing homes. It’s the time to spend hours at Walmart trying to find the BEST white elephant gift that will just get thrown away the week after your co-worker brings it home.

I don’t know about you, but a lot of it feels like guilt tripping. Either that, or you just go along with your school, youth group, or church. In the most wonderful time of the year everything is impersonal. In the season in which we as humans were given the best gift we can possibly imagine, we barely stop to imagine what we could do for those around us.

We bustle from this store to that, checking off lists we have been given. We make batches and batches of cookies that our guests never end up eating. We get upset if we can’t get the hot-ticket item of the year. Yet we still scrape in the bottom of our wallets for a few shiny pennies when someone asks us to give.

I know a lot of people who are looking for love. Acceptance is all we want. Community and friendship are our true needs. I also know a lot of people who hold the value of Christmas in their hearts, and I know a lot of people who proclaim it’s their favorite holiday.

So I sat down to think about what this world needs and what potential the true spirit of Christmas could bring to a land in pain. That spirit is the Holy Spirit. So, here is my list of 12 things you could do to make this earth a better place, if only just for the season:

  1. Help where you see a visible need. It can be as small as scraping the windshield of your partner’s car before you both head off to work, or as big as shoveling snow from your neighbors entire walkway.
  2. Lend a listening ear. When people are going through hard times, stressed with finals, having relationship issues, losing sight of their walk with God, sometimes they don’t want advice. Sometimes they just need to know someone cares about them and is willing to give them the time of day.
  3. Find a passion. When I was little I LOVED stuffed animals. I’m talking beanie babies, build-a-bears, the works. Every year I would accumulate a lot of these fuzzy friends, so my mom came up with a brilliant idea that both fuelled my love for Christmas and giving and got rid of piles and piles of animals I never touched: Every Christmas I would gather up stuffed animals I didn’t need anymore and we would go to nursing homes and hospitals and hand out animals. One year, I remember I grabbed a spotted pound puppy but I had a feeling it was the wrong one. I then grabbed a bear stuffed animal and went into a room to hand to an elderly old man. It turned out he raised bears at a sanctuary during his lifetime, and being able to have a new little bear to cuddle in his lonely times meant the world. Now, stuffed animals may not be your thing. But the possibilities are endless, so who knows! Find your thing and go for it.
  4. Those leftover cookies I was talking about? Here’s where they come in. Does your family really need8 dozen cookies that you all attempt to consume over a 24 hour period before everyone heads back home? I mean, maybe you do if you have a cookie monster dad like I do. But if you have the baking itch and find yourself making too many Christmas goodies, try finding a local shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank to donate your baked goods. It’s just a little thing, but it can end up brightening the holiday season for someone in need.
  5. Do feel-good Christmassy stuff. Watch all the Hallmark movies, build extravagant gingerbread houses, blast Christmas music through your car speakers. No shame. I don’t care if all the movies end the same. I don’t care if you have better things to do. Embrace the holiday spirit and have some fun!
  6. Attempt the unexpected. You know your best friend likes scarves. You know your brother has been begging for the new Star Wars LEGO set. But try to sit down and think. Be intentional with your gift-giving and time-spending this season! It’s easy to get caught up in the consumer-culture of the season and to go along ticking off boxes on the list, but going out of your way for another human being speaks volumes.
Stay tuned for Part 2, appearing tomorrow at 8 am!