During the pre-Christmas season, a.k.a. Advent, we are subject to endless appeals for charity. It takes discernment, but most of us, I think, are inclined to be generous to others, especially at this time of year.
Many people are very modest about their giving, writing cheques or performing service without any fanfare. Generally speaking this is laudable, however, when we have children it is important that they learn from our example. We should involve them in our charitable giving, in ways appropriate to their age.
Many churches have ongoing collections of canned goods or clothing. Even very young children can easily be involved in selecting items from home to donate on a regular basis. They can see that they are taking away from home and giving to others. Similarly, if they are part of the process of shopping for socks for the homeless, for example, they participate in charity and enjoy giving.
As children grow older, as they become more aware of the needs of others, we can encourage their involvement in our charitable giving. To whom do we donate money, and how much? Do we give from our surplus or do we sacrifice something so that we can give more? Is charity just about money, or are there things we can do that will make a difference? Is charity a one-time Christmas activity or is it a way of life for Christians? A soup kitchen “experience” to feel good about what generous people we are is not the lesson we want them to learn.
We should also remember that sometimes, charity begins closer to home. It can be easier to write a cheque to missionaries in Africa than to include old Aunt Barbara at the family dinner. These lessons in kindness are among the most important. Every family has its lonely or difficult people or perhaps there is a neighbor who is alone. And the number of people in nursing homes who receive no visitors is a disgrace. A little gift or a short visit would mean the world to them.
Perhaps there are years when our own families are facing difficulties. Christmas is tough when a loved one has passed away, or separation has occurred, or financial difficulties have us in a bind. Hopefully, someone will be there to reach out to us, and we should humbly accept their kindness, which can be hard to do. If it is a sad time for us, we should focus on the “reason for the season” and recall that the joy of the Cradle is necessarily tied to the agony of the Cross. All the more reason to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ: Advent is the season of hope, culminating in the celebration of the Word made Flesh, the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah.
To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
May we all experience the hope and joy of this season and share it generously!