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We walked through the doors of a store last week and it looked like the opening scene of “The Grinch,” only without the joyful countenance on the faces: music blaring, people scurrying and hurriedly clutching armloads of gifts amidst the chaos. It was a bit overwhelming – or, as Cindy Lou Who aptly described, superfluous.
This time of year can easily overwhelm and consume both our lives and our hearts. One glance at the calendar filled with events, gatherings and to-do’s leaves us wondering what more we have left to give. Frankly, it can leave us a little disenchanted with the Christmas season altogether. Several years ago, I found myself struggling with how trite so much of it had become. I was fearful that the baby in the manger, the Savior of the world, was becoming as relevant to our family as the elf on our shelf. I prayerfully considered what we would do with Christmas, how we could share the love of Christ in the midst of the chaos and in the midst of compromise in our consumerist culture.
The answer came through a couple of venues: I stumbled across a blog that was filled with ideas for small, random acts of kindness aimed at spreading kindness and cheer through the season. We stopped asking the questions of what we would do and simply starting asking what could we do to impact as many people as we come in contact with the love of Christ. That Christmas, my children and I prepared dozens of goody bags and candy canes for distribution and set off on a mission to light up faces and hearts all around us. It was amazing to see the change of expression on the faces of those who received even the smallest of gifts. My children began to experience the joy of giving, realizing that even the smallest act of sharing could brighten someone’s day. It was a teachable moment about all things grace, how Christ Himself came as the greatest gift of grace to us and we, in turn, were sharing that grace and His love.
But something was still missing in all of our giving…
We knew that we were sharing His love, but did they, the ones to whom we were giving, know? Were we truly connecting Christ to candy canes and goody bags? We desired to give people more than a treat to brighten their day; we wanted to connect them with the hope of the world, the meaning of Christmas itself. We began attaching little cards (distributed by our church) that simply read: “Something Extra to Show You that God Loves You”. The back of the card contains basic information about our church, and just like that, people are connected to His love and His people.
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Could it really be so simple?
Scores of stories and testimonies have overflowed in the wake of this movement, the passing of these cards in restaurants, offices and drive-thru lines. Can Christ use a candy cane from a child to melt a heart of stone? Can He use the offer of a cup of coffee to connect someone with hope? Can He use a goody bag filled with treats to fill the emptiness in someone’s heart? Yes, yes, and yes. His word tells us that He can do abundantly more than we could ever imagine. Over and over again, He reminds us that He doesn’t need our ability, only our availability – our willingness – and the simplicity of our faith.
There is a reason that Christ desires us to maintain a childlike faith. We are prone to overthink, over-analyze, and eventually, we become paralyzed and ineffective. We lose ourselves in the futile attempt of trying to do it all. In Matthew, we see the Pharisees, the religious elite, testing Jesus with a question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). If we’re honest, I think we sometimes ask the same question, wanting to prioritize, to do the most important first. Jesus responds not with one, but two: love God and love people.
The sum of this season and this life is simply this: fall in love with Jesus. The overflow of our love for Him, and His love for us, will pour out onto all that we give and all that we touch. Candy canes are covered in His love. Through Him, we have the ability to see His presence in everything. The “something extra” that we pass along isn’t the gift itself, but the gift of God’s son.
This season, may we light up our trees, the faces of friends, and the hearts of strangers through His love.
Nadia Wilder is a Southern girl by birth, saved by grace, mommy of two by blessing, and a writer by heart. She is passionate about her faith, family, photography and encouraging others to live abundantly in Christ. You can read more from Nadia at The Narrow Path Home.