I admit it—even with considerable effort, it’s hard for me to stop associating Christmas with material gifts. Though it’s easy to talk of the true meaning of Christmas in Christ’s ultimate Gift and the spirit of servitude we live out in response, society seems to have a sly way of saturating my psyche with materialistic pressures. Not only do I find myself pining for very specific things (like a tricked-out bread machine or a bulk load of Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts), I’m also picky in what I want to give.

The other day I received a toy catalog. I saw a train set I felt my oldest son deserved. That same day I got a call from a Make- a-Wish-type charity, wanting a “small” donation to help provide gifts for terminally ill children. Earlier that week I was trying to figure out how I could arrange a massage appointment for a stressed-out friend and help another with a significant financial setback. A mental list burgeoned with needs of my friends and family. I didn’t have the means to give to these situations in the exact ways I felt I should. Maybe I used to, but with two kids and a home business, I now struggle with focusing on anything beyond my house’s walls. I suddenly felt powerless to give anything at all.

Finally, after praying about my perceived hang-ups in help-giving, I realized I had fallen into a cleverly-set trap, compliments of the devil himself. Cultivating an appetite for material goods isn’t the only way Satan discourages generosity. If distracted by feelings of inadequacy, we can forget to exemplify the resourceful giving spirit that Christ Himself modeled.

Right from His birth, Jesus didn’t have much—but that certainly didn’t stop Him from being the most helpful, generous person in history (after all, He fed the masses with a random kid’s lunch, healed folk with mud, spit, water…whatever was lying around). I resolved to follow His example of resourceful, compassionate servitude, regardless of how I perceive my own situation. Then God revealed opportunities that had been flying under my radar.

I considered my average day. Where do I go? With whom do I interact? What impression do I leave behind? Perhaps Christmastime can provide the perfect excuse to build relationships and start leaving a Christ-inspired impression.

On the mornings I find myself needing a drive-thru pick-me-up, maybe I could also spread a little holiday cheer in the Burger King line by buying an order of “cini-minis” for the car behind me. Maybe I could make prayer cards with my first name and a designated e-mail address. I could leave a trail of them as I go, offering prayer for special holiday requests.

To challenge the comfort zone, perhaps I will introduce myself to the cashier at Panera who makes my drink when I come in each week with stacks of work. I can complement her efficiency. I can tell her how I appreciate a smiling face on a stressful day. With Christmas as an excuse to be friendlier and more service-minded, I can finally start building relationships with people I regularly encounter. Maybe I can also tell her about my prayer-card project I’m doing in the spirit of Christmas. I can ask if there are burdens on her heart I could pray for, whether specific or silent. I might find out more about her and discover small ways to make her day.

After all, isn’t it the little, unexpected things in life that make us smile? Buying cini-minis for Burger King customers isn’t going to pay off their mortgages or bring estranged family members home, but the simple serendipity of the situation can still make their day. And if we prayerfully make these random acts of kindness into a habit, God can use these small opportunities to draw people to Him. And that just makes His day.


Author Amy Prindle lives in Lincoln, NE, with her husband, Cale. They have two boys—both under age 3! She is a member of Piedmont Park Church and is the former associate director of communication for the Mid-America Union. Currently she is the owner of Flawless Documents, a freelance writing and editing company (amy@flawlessdocuments.com).