Traditionally, the season of preparing for Christmas has been a time of preparation. Much like the season of Lent, when we prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection, Advent has been associated with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (or charitable giving).
While many churches no longer recognize the fasting part of the preparation (in fact, many of us have replaced it with extra baking), the charitable portion of preparing for Christmas still has deep holds.
And it should have a deep hold in our hearts.
Just as Christ gave Himself to us, so we should give to one another. But to follow Christ’s example, we need to do more than simply write a check and give from a distance, we need to give of ourselves, our hearts.
We need to love our neighbors. Christmas is a time when doors are opened a little wider and those around us need to see that the Baby in the manger truly does change lives.We need to love our neighbors. Christmas is a time when doors are opened a little wider and those around us need to see that the Baby in the manger truly does change lives. Click To Tweet
Step into the lives of those around you and love.
Here are 15 actionable ways to love your neighbor this Christmas:
1. Blessing Bags
Filling bags with simple food and hygiene supplies to keep in the car is a beautiful way to love those around you. Blessing bags provide a great and easy way to be prepared to give in love to those in need while you’re on the go. There’s a great overview of things to include here.
2. Deliver Cookies
Packages of cookies are a simple way to show love to your neighbors! As a child, I loved creating cookies from the book, The Sweetest Story Ever Told. It tells the story of a little girl who makes 5 cookies that tell the story of the birth of Christ. It is a fun, simple way to spread some Christmas cheer and share the message of Christ to those near you.
3. Host a Cookie Exchange
Opening up your home in hospitality is a powerful way to show love to those around you. A cookie exchange is a wonderful way to bring together the women in your neighborhood to share favorite recipes. I remember watching my mom host our neighbor ladies each year for a Christmas cookie exchange or tea. Aside from eating tasty treats, one of my favorite memories was her pulling out her copy of Max Lucado’s When God Came Near and reading a passage about the love of God changing our lives with His presence. It was a lovely time to show love and kindness to those near us and to build deeper relationships with our neighbors.
This is an old-fashioned tradition and one that’s a beautiful way to share the Gospel with those around you. Christmas is the only time of year when our radios are flooded with the beautiful goodness of the God who came to save us all from Satan’s power. Let our voices be the loudest in proclaiming this truth. Caroling is a beautiful way to share that joy (and a wonderful addition to delivering cookies).Christmas is the only time of year when our radios are flooded with the beautiful goodness of the God who came to save us all from Satan’s power. Let our voices be the loudest in proclaiming this truth. Click To Tweet
5. Invite a Family Over to Bake
You know that new family in church/your neighborhood/on the baseball team? Invite them over to decorate Christmas cookies. Turn on some music, nibble on some treats, and spend some time getting to know them. My first Christmas in Hawaii, away from family, a family invited me to join them in cookie decorating. Looking back, this stands out as one of the most joyous moments of that season. They invited me to join in with the family of God even while I was missing my biological family. Can we do that for those around us?
6. Host a Kids’ Night
Help your neighbors get a night out by inviting the neighbor kids over for a few hours. This is a wonderful way to serve and build relationships.
7. Shop for a Crisis Pregnancy Center
Call your local Crisis Pregnancy Center and ask if there are any supply donations needed. Then, spend your time and energy shopping for those in need. In a season where most of us have more than we need, it is important that we act as the hands and feet of Jesus and give to those who truly need it.
8. Donate a Gift to a Child Through Angel Tree
Angel Tree is a branch of Prison Fellowship that helps children of those in prison feel the love of Christ at Christmas time. This organization helps strengthen the relationship a child feels with their parent during a time of strain and shame and helps both the child and parent know that they are loved.
9. Fill a Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
Like Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child helps children around the world know the love of Christ through a simple gift. Packing a shoebox is a simple way to reach overseas to help those in need know the love and saving work of Christ.
10. Write Thank You Letters
We all remember the story of the one leper who returned to thank Jesus after being healed – we need to follow his example. Take time to thank those in your life. Write a little note and leave it for those whose work typically is taken for granted or goes unnoticed (Mailman, Teachers, Barista, etc.).
11. Visit a Nursing Home
Take time to visit a nursing home and give your time to the residents. Ask if you can play games or, if you’re musical, maybe lead them in some carols. This is a beautiful way to love those who often are not able to give in return.
12. Shovel the Sidewalks or a Neighbor’s Driveway
If you live in a snowy area (hooray for Michigan winters!) consider surprising your neighbor by shoveling the cold, wet snow for them. If you have a spouse or roommate, you might also consider scraping the snow off for them. Look for little ways to unexpectedly serve others.
13. Ring the Salvation Army Bell
Did you know you can volunteer to ring the Salvation Army Bell? Find your districts website and sign-up! This is an especially good one to do with friends or family.
14. Invite Your Neighbors Over for a Christmas Movie Night
Open up your home and invite a family (or a few!) over for a Christmas movie night. Bust out a classic (my favorite is White Christmas) or something newer (maybe Elf?) and pop some popcorn.
15. Spend an Evening with Families in Transitional Living
Often shelters that provide transitional living for those in need often are looking for volunteers to spend time and build relationships with those transitioning from desperate situations into homes of their own. Contact a local shelter and see if you can spend an evening (or maybe several evenings) playing games, decorating cookies, or even just spending time listening.
As you prepare your heart for Christmas, consider stepping out to put faith into action by loving those around you. Bring accountability, fun, and some extra love with you by inviting family and friends to join in. Find ways to reach out to your neighbor by showing the extravagant love the Christ lavished upon us by stepping into our lowly place and giving of Himself.