My paternal grandmother, Alberta Scott, aka Ma-ma, crafted the art of memory-making.
Every December certain things took place in her home. The smooth sounds of Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis spun on the console upstairs while boiled custard simmered on the stove. A twelve-inch ball of Styrofoam decked out in olive-green velvet hung over the same doorway for as long as I can remember. And the gold pedestal candy dish in the living room was emptied of common candy in favor of peppermints.
Ma-ma made Christmas special for everyone who walked through her door. But she didn’t stop there. Every year, she loaded her Buick with homemade pound cakes, fudge, and spritzer cookies, making her rounds to those who were home-bound, lonely, and sick. Even as a little girl, I remember thinking how I wanted to be like her when I grew up.
Her gestures were simple but meaningful.
She taught me that sharing the love of Christ, especially at Christmas, is a privilege that no jolly red-coated gift deliverer could possibly match.
Over the years, I’ve tried creating ideas that worked for our family. Below are some of those ways. I’d love to read yours in the comment box!
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:16 ESV
- As you receive Christmas cards in the mail, place them in a bowl in the center of your table. Pick a card each night and pray for that family.
- Before your fluffy socks hit the floor each morning, ask God to help you be attentive to the divine opportunities He has for you that day. Maybe you will be the only patient person in line behind the woman who plops 20 items down in a 10 item lane. Or, the only person that shows restraint, refusing to honk at the woman who robbed you of a green light because she was too busy reading her phone. Deep breath Cathy, deep breath.
- Not only come to a complete stop for pedestrians but smile at them. It’s a nice way to let them know they’re not an intrusion on your day and that they are worthy of your time.
- Go beyond what’s expected when you hear the bell ring near a favorite store. Buy a bottle of water or a hot cup of cocoa for the person who is willing to brave the weather to raise money for those in need. If you really want to make their day, take their order for a nearby coffee shop or restaurant. The smile you receive will be the brightest gift you’ll open this season.
- Family activity: Bundle up, grab a basket and head outdoors to find objects in nature for a holiday centerpiece. As you walk, consider pointing out the details of God’s magnificent handiwork. When you return home, place a large white candle in the center, sharing how Christ is the true Light, the Light of all mankind (read John 1). Capturing ordinary moments for God’s glory releases extraordinary possibilities.
- Celebrate Advent as a family. Advent – A Countdown to Christmas, by Focus on the Family has several resources that are sure to help you get started.
- Give the gift of song. Gather friends for cocoa and go caroling! Hand out peppermint canes with tags that read, Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
- Exchange busy for being. For a few minutes each day, be intentionally still and quiet as you meditate on Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God.
- Curl up with your favorite cup of tea and Christmas novella. After all, how can we serve others if we ourselves are depleted?
- Lend an ear⏤a listening one, that is. For those who are struggling with the season, be there. It’s not so much what you say as much as what you hear.
- Do you enjoy decorating? Take time to notice those around you who may have physical difficulties and are unable to decorate a tree.
- Gift a day. If you know someone who became a widow in 2018, create a day for them. If they’re a single mom of young children, offer to watch the children. Or plan a day that doesn’t require money — hiking, festivals, or a church Christmas program.
- “Wrap gifts” for Jesus. I was a single mom when I celebrated my first Christmas as a Christ-follower. Throughout the month of December, I jotted down specific ways I was thankful for my new life, His promises, and blessings. Each one went on a different notecard and under the spindly Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, after the boys had gone to their dad’s, I spent a quiet time unwrapping the gifts and saying each one aloud. It was a Christmas I’ll never forget. That’s what happens when one crosses over from darkness to light.
- Invite a lonely neighbor to dinner or dessert. The blessing doesn’t dwell in a dish but rather, the heart.
- Adopt a family with a deployed military parent. Being a single parent is never easy but this is especially so during the holidays.
- Write to someone who has especially blessed you this year. “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” – John Donne. What would it mean to you to receive such a letter?
- Who couldn’t use a cup of coffee? Consider treating the person behind you in line. Not so long ago, I chose to forego a pay-it-backward moment because the woman seemed to have it all together. Why would a woman driving a BMW with impeccable style need a free coffee? (Must I reason everything out?) One divine tap. That’s all it took. God alone knows what’s going on in the heart of another.
- As you flick on your lights in December, let it remind you how Jesus is the Light of the World. He pierced your darkness and mine.
- Do you know someone who has lost a loved one this year? Consider gifting them an evergreen plant or tree. In the note, remind them that like the evergreen that retains color all year long, their love too will remain. Perhaps invite a few close friends and spend time sharing sweet memories of the person as you plant the tree together.
- Take a cue from the song Silent Night, Holy Night, and turn off all TVs, phones, and laptops. Read a book, sing Christmas carols, work on a Christmas puzzle, or bake Christmas cookies for yourself and others.
Every December, I peel open the tote that holds Ma-ma’s ball of styrofoam dressed in olive-green velvet and smile. Yes, the memories of childhood prompt it but it’s the blessing she brought to others that hold it.
Watch for the next Tiny House Tuesday! It will be my only post during the month of December. I plan to enjoy my family, merge into a new church family, prepare my heart for Christmas, and down buckets of coffee. Speaking of which…
What’s one way you/your family reach out to others during the Christmas season? Or, is there an idea above you plan to try this season? Leave a comment and your name will be included in a random drawing for a $10.00 gift card from Starbucks!
**Subscribers! Be sure to check your inbox today. A full list of family ideas for the Christmas Jar is included in your Letter from the Tiny House on the Hill.