The mad dash to find the perfect Christmas gifts for your family has begun. People crowd stores, fill their online shopping carts, and pay double for shipping to make sure their presents arrive on time. Giving gifts is part of the Christmas season and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially because you’ve done your homework. You’ve read letters to Santa, took mental notes when friends pointed at something in the store window, and finally found the perfect pair of earrings for your mother-in-law. But while your gifts are thoughtful, how deep do they really go? Are you giving a gift that will bring your family closer together for years to come? Here are 3 family-strengthening Christmas gifts you may have overlooked:
1. Forgive a family member who has hurt you.
Forgiving someone, especially someone close to you, is a lot easier said than done. The sting of a thoughtless remark from someone who knows your deepest insecurities can be intense. When you hold on to the pain, it can begin to fester and you don’t allow yourself to move on and heal. The desire for retribution sneaks up on everyone and you can find yourself wanting that person to feel sorry and pay for what they’ve said or done. This Christmas, give the gift of forgiveness. Sam Beeson, author of the Christmas book A Rare Nativity observed, “The true spirit of Christmas has the very real ability to soften hearts, mend fences, and rebuild bridges.” When you freely forgive someone close to you, your relationship with them deepens.
2. Give up a want for someone else’s need.
The idea of giving something up may not be very appealing, but sacrificing a want to fill someone else’s need is a beautiful gift that allows you to look outside of your current circumstances and see the bigger picture. This year, sacrifice some of your time to visit with your widowed aunt or take a break from preparing the house for guests and build a snowman with a child who needs a little of your attention. Like young Paul in the children's Christmas story Asleep on the Hay: A Dust Bowl Christmas, who gave up his favorite calf to help a stranded family with a sick baby, we can only find the true Spirit of Christmas by sacrificing. When you give up something you want to help a family member, or even a stranger, in need, you are living the Spirit of Christmas and showing Christ that you truly care about your fellow brothers and sisters.
3. Offer hope to someone who desperately needs it.
Hope is a precious commodity these days. Offering encouragement and even praying for someone can give them the budding light of hope they may be silently and desperately looking for. For centuries, people in times of crisis and uncertainty have found ways to be hopeful and share their hope. War seems to be a particular reminder of this, especially at Christmas time. Short videos like Peace Is Possible recall the miraculous truce inspired by "Silent Night," and books like Home and Away: A World War II Christmas Story remind of the value of keeping faith and family close during the holiday season.
And though we may not be in a physical war, we each face individual battles every day that could be made easier with the gift of hope. Imagine if we each found a little of this hope and shared it with others? If we reminded our sibling that raising four children is worth it or reassured a grieving friend that you are there for them and they will eventually find happiness again. Spread hope this Christmas and you’ll find your family and friends will grow stronger and more optimistic with you.