- Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40). Christians are the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus in the world today.
- Our Creator can help us be creative to make a difference in others’ lives in Jesus’ name — especially at Christmas.
- Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Anna Ostanin
What Might ‘Giving in the Name of Jesus’ Look Like?
Some heart examination can help us determine whether our kind of giving resembles how Jesus gives.
Jesus served others in humility. He “took the form of a servant and humbled himself” (Mark 10:45). He modeled humility. Giving in His name should look like humility, not posturing or a desire to be noticed.
Jesus’ humility led him to give with selfless love, the kind of love that desires good for others. Paul says that should be our attitude too — “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:4). We’re to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love as Jesus loved us (Mark 12:31; John 15:12).
Jesus’ motivation for loving, giving and serving was that He might do the Father’s will and that the Father would receive glory (John 8:49b-50; John 17:4). If we are to love, give to, and serve others in Jesus’ name, that should be our heart motivation as well — to keep in step with the Holy Spirit so we can obey the Father’s will and to bring glory to Him (1 Corinthians 10:31), not to gratify the desires of the flesh or bring glory to self (Philippians 2:3a).
How Can Christmas Traditions ‘Give’ in Jesus’ Name?
Traditions can become unremarkable over time. It’s important to stoke the fire of “wonder” at Christmas in every activity.
One tradition to keep fresh is Christmas cards. Be sure they are like gifts in Jesus’ name, focusing on the Christmas story in some way. Cards that communicate the biblical Christmas well are not hard to find; but even a snowman- or reindeer-themed card can have a Scripture verse and warm Christian greeting added.
Focus on the scriptural truth of Christmas in creative ways — perhaps by using a different Bible translation or a Bible storybook — to give family members continuing insight and fresh appreciation for why the Savior came. Chat about how Jesus might tell or illustrate His own birth story. What details might He add? What is the context of His birth?
One family placed a Bible on brightly-colored tissue in an open box in the midst of all the other gifts under the tree. On Christmas morning, after other gifts were opened, the family gathered around to focus on the story of Jesus’ birth — the greatest gift of all (Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2:1-20). (For older children, the storytelling could precede gift opening.)
When giving presents, include some gifts that encourage a believer’s spiritual growth — a new Bible, a devotional book or other Christian books, or maybe a paid ticket or the entrance fee to an event, conference, or venue that will bless and encourage in the days ahead.
Consider starting a new tradition. For example, have each family member share prayer requests on Christmas Eve and then write them down to place in a special box. Requests might concern a physical or financial need, a relationship that needs mending, the need for direction, etc. When Christmas is over, store the filled prayer box with holiday decorations until the next Christmas. Praise God for answered prayer, and follow-up with a special time of prayer — “in Jesus’ name” — for needs and requests not yet answered.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/coffeeka
How Can Families Give in the Name of Jesus?
A former pastor described one of the ways he and his wife helped their children focus on giving in the name of Jesus. They created little pouches for their children to fill over the month of December. The children did jobs beyond their normal chores, and they were paid for their labor. The children put their earnings in the pouches, knowing the pouches would be laid before a manger — like gifts brought to Jesus.
Christmas morning, the pouches contained small gifts for the children. The money was removed and given to a meaningful cause or ministry the family agreed on together early in December.
But giving isn’t just about money and brightly-colored packages. Yes, it is wonderful to receive a gift to open on Christmas Day, but gifts of service to family members can demonstrate Christ’s love. Some families give “coupons” to be redeemed after Christmas — but sometimes that puts pressure on the recipient to claim their gift. It’s even better to give in the moment throughout the holiday season. Think about practical gifts like running errands for grandma, repairing a child’s broken toy, mowing the lawn for dad, or washing the kitchen floor for mom.
How Might Friends and Churches Gather to Give in Jesus’ Name?
Friends or church members might gather for Christmas caroling with the goal of encouraging the lonely or those who hurt, perhaps at an assisted living facility or children’s hospital.
Hosting a Christian movie night for the neighborhood with popcorn and hot chocolate is another way to reach out in Jesus’ name. Consider Christian movies with deep spiritual meaning, like The Nativity Story or part of the series, The Chosen. Also, films like The Ultimate Gift or The Chronicles of Narnia can open up conversations with spiritual themes for those who have not yet trusted Christ.
The power of unity is especially wonderful at Christmas. One person can accomplish a little in tough circumstances, but a group coming together with unified purpose can accomplish a lot! Be alert to opportunities to join with other Christian friends or church members for a day or two to meet a more difficult or complex need, like rebuilding part of a home that was demolished in a storm or hurricane. When God’s people come together with purpose, using their unique spiritual gifts and skills, great things can happen — all for His glory. What’s more, the watching world may praise God for works done in Jesus’ name (Matthew 5:16).
A growing number of churches have care ministries, and they may look for extra volunteers during the holiday season. Churches might also motivate their members to adopt a missionary for Christmas and write them an encouraging letter — more than a Christmas card. Missionaries on foreign fields often get lonely during the holidays.
How Might You Appeal to the Five Senses in Jesus’ Name?
Jesus often pointed to things in nature — things people could see, hear, and smell — to make His parables come alive. For a unique approach to the wonder of Christmas, think about including the five senses with the goal of helping and encouraging people in Jesus’ name.
Appeal to the sense of sight. Decorate the home, inside and out, with reminders of the Christmas story. Write the special names of Jesus on ornaments. Place a nativity scene on a table — or move Mary and Joseph through the house on their journey “to Bethlehem,” ending at a Nativity scene on Christmas Eve. Drive around to see Christmas lights, which reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World. Light advent candles. Create a Jesse Tree.
To appeal to the sense of hearing, play Christmas music that honors Jesus and adds a sense of peace to the chaos of the season. Focus on Christmas songs that bring hope, express gratitude, and give glory to Christ — like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “O Holy Night.” Sing “The Hallelujah Chorus” with your church choir. Play Handel’s Messiah at home. Encourage Christmas joy with laughter too.
Appeal to the senses of smell and taste. Light scented candles. Place scented pinecones in the fireplace. Bake a fragrant “Birthday Cake for Jesus!” Make goodies for neighbors and include a message about God’s great love gift (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10, 14).
Don’t forget the sense of touch. With sensitivity and appropriateness, hug someone who is hurting, or simply put your hand on their arm and say with sincerity, “I am praying for you.” Remember that Jesus often reached out to physically touch people. The lonely and rejected are often desperate for caring, human touch, especially at Christmas.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Nastco
What Personal Service Projects Can Be Done in Jesus’ Name?
Keep things in perspective. So many people are stressed over where their next meal might come from or how they will manage living for another day. Ask God to open your eyes to see others’ specific needs, and how you might make a difference.
“Adopt” a single mom — especially one who has limited income — and buy gifts for her children, including things like clothing or shoes. Or give the mom a grocery store gift certificate. All moms with young children might appreciate time alone for self-care. Take the children on a special outing while their mom gets much-needed rest and recuperation.
An elderly neighbor might appreciate the gift of yard work or home repairs. Add a chair or two at the holiday table, and invite a widow or widower, or a college student who couldn’t go home for Christmas. Help a sick friend with a visit, prepared meals, or transportation to medical appointments. Consider volunteering at a homeless shelter.
The key word here is “serving.” Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others (Mark 10:45). When we serve others in His name, we can mature in Christlikeness.
How Might Giving to Ministries Be Gifts in Jesus’ Name?
God’s people are to give generously. Consider outreach needs and how you might meet those needs. Be an evangelistic giver, considering how Christmas giving can best be leveraged for God’s Kingdom. Anyone can write a check for a tax-exempt receipt, but it takes a person with the heart of Jesus to give in His name.
Christian organizations and charities pray for substantial year-end gifts so they can continue ministering in the year ahead. When considering ministry outreaches, take into account the values of the organizations and their impact. Think about your or your family’s personal interests in ministry, and the level of commitment and type of donation you might want to make.
Certainly, church outreaches and missionaries are a priority — consider them first. But then, I’d like to suggest a few organizations and charities to consider (and you might have another favorite outreach).
World Help — Serving people in impoverished communities. Practical needs can be met through their Christmas giving catalogue.
World Vision — A child sponsorship program helping communities with basics like clean water and improved nutrition.
Samaritan’s Purse — Disaster relief and the Operation Christmas Child “shoebox program.”
Operation Blessing — Disaster relief and special issues, like fighting human trafficking.
Open Doors USA — Helping the persecuted Church.
Prison Fellowship — Supports families of prisoners. The Angel Tree program provides gifts to inmates’ children.
As we pray for God to prepare our hearts for Christlike giving, let’s also pray for wisdom to know how and where to give in Jesus’ name. It will bless the recipients, bring glory to God, and fill our own hearts with joy. As the Apostle Paul said, quoting Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”