The Best Kind of Gift
by Jill Hardie
About ten years ago, my husband, Tim, and I began to feel the joy of Christmas giving way to the pressures of commercialism. We longed for a way to center Christmas, to restore the anticipation, wonder, and happiness we once felt each December. Over several years, God led our family to a new tradition, one that has blessed us so much that I felt compelled to share it with others through my new picture book, The Sparkle Box.
First, in an effort to combat the buying frenzy at Christmas, Tim and I began to give gifts to the needy in honor of people we love. Instead of buying my mom earrings, for example, we donated to an art program for underprivileged children in her honor. But after a couple of years of giving gifts of compassion, we found we were longing to buy personal gifts for our parents again. There is something beautiful about expressing love through a gift that says, “We thought of you when we saw this!” Seeing the light in someone’s eyes when they open a gift brings us closer together. It’s not about the monetary value of the gift. It’s about expressing love in a way that says, “I know you. I care about you. I knew this would make you smile.”
One December night, Tim and I discussed our plan for Christmas. We agreed that we wanted to go back to personal gifts for our parents, but we wanted to continue to do something extra at Christmastime to bless people in need. “Who are we really honoring when we give gifts to the needy?” I asked Tim. At the same moment we got the answer—Jesus. We’re honoring Jesus. We agreed we would still purchase gifts of compassion, but this year, we would record them on slips of paper and put them under our tree for Jesus.
On Christmas morning, before we opened any other gifts, I picked up a small, foil-covered box with a tag that read “To Jesus” and said a simple prayer:
“Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to be the light to our world. These gifts are for You, in honor of Your birthday. For You taught us that whatever we do for those in need, we do for You.”
I opened the box and read the papers inside: “. . . a goat to provide milk for a poor family to drink and cheese they can sell to fund their children’s educations. A shoebox of toys and gifts, sent across the world to a child, with a message of Your love. Mittens that will keep someone’s hands warm this winter. . . .”
My throat tightened as I read the gifts aloud. I looked at my husband—his eyes were filled with tears. This was what had been missing from our Christmases. We were honoring Jesus with gifts that would make Him smile. Our children sat in quiet reverence. Afterward, as we opened up our gifts from each other, the happiness and love we felt was magnified. We had never experienced such complete peace on Christmas!
The Christmas seasons that have followed have been transformed. We all take part in selecting the gifts for Jesus and reading them out loud on Christmas morning. I wrote The Sparkle Box to share this tradition, in the hope that children and adults everywhere would honor Jesus with a present on Christmas. It is a beautiful and simple way to center Christmas, by being a blessing and letting your light shine.