Today is my favorite day of the Christmas season. It's cookie party day. The girls have eight friends coming over this morning for our annual cookie party. We're going to go serve others by sorting books for a local charity followed by a pizza lunch and some cookie decorating.
As my girls have gotten older the look of this party has changed. We started when my older daughter was 2 with just cookie decorating (because when they're 2, that's a party in and of itself). As they grew, we added games and crafts to our cookie decorating. We also added a donation component -- all their friends would bring something to donate to a local charity. One year we did canned food. One year we collected art supplies, and last year we collected shoes. I wanted all the kids to realize that while we can have fun together, it's important that we serve others, too.
This year, we've decided to take that service component one step further and make it be the vast majority of our party. We're going to spend most of our party serving others. The kids still get to hang out with their friends, but they get to do it in a way that also helps other kids.
Since my girls were very small, we've tried to instill in them a desire to serve others. My parents have always made it a point to take the girls to the grocery to fill a wishlist for Harvesters, our local food pantry. We've rung the Salvation Army bell, taken the kids on daylong mission trips, and encouraged them to serve at church. We've done all this in the hopes that they will form a habit of service, that they will spend their lives living out the words of Galatians 5:13-14: "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
We are called to serve others. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our community. Teaching our kids to serve teaches them to be like Jesus. And this time of the year is a perfect time to start getting your kids focused on serving others. It takes the emphasis off of getting and puts it on giving. Kids don't usually have a lot of money, so creating opportunities for them to serve others with their gifts and talents and just their manual labor teaches them that they don't have to be monetarily rich to serve.
More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to earth in the ultimate act of service to us. He came so that we could have a relationship with God. He came so that we could have an abundant life because of His sacrifice. His life is an example of how we should serve others.
As we go through this Christmas season, look for ways to teach your kids to serve others. Be deliberate in creating opportunities for them to do so. (If you're looking for some great ideas for service projects, especially for younger kids, check out Teach Me to Serve by Kristen Summers.) Because every time we serve others, we walk in Jesus' footsteps. I can't think of a better gift to give Him this Christmas season.