Rediscovering the True Spirit of Christmas

For years, I never understood Christmas. Admittedly, I was a bit of a Scrooge. It just seemed like the whole thing was a farce.

Christmas Spirit
Photo credit: Steve Johnson (Creative Commons)

Every made-for-TV movie I watched between Thanksgiving and New Year’s preached the same gospel: “It’s not about presents.” But then, every Christmas morning, I was inundated with presents. It didn’t make sense. Someone was lying.

Everything you want?

My parents, and probably yours, would conclude every December 25th with the same nervous question:

So… did you get everything you wanted?

Are you kidding me? Everything I wanted? Is this what we want to teach our children about life? That you can get everything you want? I remember being a kid. I never got everything I wanted (thank God.) My parents had the best of intentions at heart. Most do. But this is telling of our culture.

Maybe it’s America. Maybe it’s humanity at its most broken. But I shudder to think of the implications of that phrase: everything you want.

Over the years, I’ve grown cynical of Christmas. I’ve run out of good gift ideas, gotten fed up with the shopping mall feeding frenzy, and been downright been pissed off at ungrateful people. It’s made me want to write off the whole ridiculous holiday (told you I was a Scrooge).

Fortunately, there’s another story to tell.

Rethinking the point of Christmas

When Mary finds out she’s pregnant with the Jesus, she sings a song — a pretty interesting one:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.
—Luke 1:52-55

When I first read this, I swear I heard Santa Claus drop dead of a heart attack. “He has sent the rich away empty…” Does that sound like everything you wanted? Not quite.

God loves the poor. He is among them. And if we are going to celebrate the birth of his Son with any sense of conscience, we must be with them, too.

A few years ago, I spent the month of December hanging out with a community of homeless men and women who lived under a bridge in downtown Nashville. My friend Paul and I brought them candy canes, shoes, and coats. Sure, we gave them gifts; but they gave us a gift we could never repay.

They opened our eyes to the true spirit of Christmas.

As it turns out, it’s not about holiday specials and sugar cookies or about getting everything you ever wanted. Through the dirty and downtrodden and nearly-forgotten, I learned what December 25 is really about: compassion.

Christmas belongs to the poor

The other night, I caught an old rerun of Frasier. It was a Christmas episode. On the show, Frasier meets a homeless man who tells him, rather pointedly, what Christmas is all about:

The rest of the year belongs to rich people with their fancy houses and expensive foreign cars, but Christmas, Christmas belongs to guys like us.

Frasier forgets his wallet and can’t cover the cost of his meal, so the homeless man and his friends cover it. This is the great irony and paradox of Christmas, of learning to live compassionately: We don’t give to the poor; they give to us.

One Sunday afternoon in 2007, I drove a car full of Christmas presents to a small rented house in south Nashville. In that home, a family of three lived — without a phone, sometimes without heat, and seemingly without hope.

A week before, this family didn’t think they were going to be able to have Christmas at all that year. But there was another story to be told. A church group of about 30 people banded together to buy gifts, food, toys, and more for this family.

The best Christmas gift I received that year — maybe ever — was the look on the two children’s faces as I pulled up in my Buick, the back seat and trunk full of presents from perfect strangers.

“How could this be?” they marveled. They were told Santa wasn’t coming this year. This had to be magic — and indeed, it was.

After a long hiatus, I believed in Christmas again.

Christmas belongs to the poor. Let’s not forget that. We should be raising our glasses to them, to the outcast and the hungry, the handicapped and oppressed. Maybe if we’re lucky, they’ll let us in on the true spirit of the season.

A radical way to do some holiday shopping

This year, my wife and I are doing something different for Christmas. No, we won’t be celebrating it on the streets (unless the opportunity presents itself). However, we will be finding a way to connect with those in need.

We’re buying gifts. But not just any kind of gifts. The kind that make a difference.

We do this every year. It helps make the meaning of the holiday a little more tangible for us, when it’s easy to get lost in the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays.

If you’re looking for a way to give back and need some help identifying a great cause, I encourage you to check out World Vision’s Gift Catalog. It’s one of the best ways I know to reconnect with the true spirit of Christmas.

Because there’s just something about celebrating Christmas without the poor that feels wrong.

May we connect with the story of a savior born in a manger and find Christmas where it belongs — in humble places, like barns and dumps and alleys. This is where we find the true spirit of the holiday … if we’re willing to really look.

And may this manger-born boy lead us, as he promised, out of our own prisons and into the life we were meant to live.

How do you get in touch with the true spirit of Christmas? Share in the comments.

140 thoughts on “Rediscovering the True Spirit of Christmas

  1. It’s hard for me to connect with Christmas as well, because it quickly turns into, “Well, if I spent this much on so and so, I need to spend the same on so and so.” Nothing ticks me off more than that. 

    Honestly, it makes me want to celebrate the birth of Christ any day besides His birthday, because people just don’t “get” it. 

    Thanks for the perspective. 

  2. I think a great family tradition would be to get together and purchase something from the World Vision catalog together. What a great way to get the kids interested in helping out others. I think I may start that tradition at our house!

  3. I’ll be sharing about this in a guest post for Larry The Deuce at his Deuceology blog on Wednesday.  I think one way to get in touch with the true meaning of Christmas is to take the time to celebrate advent.  Our current church doesn’t celebrate advent, and our kids are getting older, so it takes more intentional action on our part to make sure we sit down together to read about the coming king.  But I’ve learned that lighting the advent wreath, opening the advent calendar windows, and reading the advent devotions can be a great first step in getting our minds and hearts in the right place to celebrate this season.

  4. *tears* just thank you, Jeff, for these words, for sharing your heart on this. This has been a difficult Advanet for me this year, for so many things that ou mentioned. Raising my glass with you to “the least of these” and shopping from the Compassion catalogue for things like chickens, and drought survival kits…. Thank you, brother.

      1. this is amazing. thank you.
        the holiday season  is a gentle reminder that peace and joy and love abide, so we can fill the air with promise, erasing all fears, conflicts, and ill-harbored feelings and be a voice, not an echo. 😉

  5. Love this, Jeff. I’m working on a post about this very thing. One of the things I did last Christmas to encourage compassion in my two 4yo grandsons, I sponsored a 4yo Compassion child for them. We’ll pay the monthly sponsorship until they are old enough to assume that responsibility, but for now I want them to help with praying for Diego and with writing letters. I gave each of the boys a framed picture of Diego, a blow-up globe so I could show them where Diego lives, a children’s book about the country where Diego lives, and another book for children to guide them in praying for children in poverty. 

  6. I never really understood Christmas until I had children.  Their innocence and hard fast belief in what Christmas is renewed my faith in so many things.  My girls are older now, but the holiday is still for them…not presents, not the perfectly decorated belongs-in-a-catalog-tree…but for them to have their faith in something so good renewed.  I’m amazed and blessed to be able to witness that each year.

    1. I can’t wait to see Christmas through our children’s eyes (once we have them). I think I caught a glimpse of this via my younger brother a few years ago.

  7. I listen to Andrew Peterson’s masterful Behold the Lamb of God album (link: This shreds the consumer culture gospel and cut to the heart of the real Christmas story.

    There’s a tour each year. If you have a chance to go, I highly recommend it. It’s a life-changing and definitely season-changing experience.


  8. My native language happens to be German. “Gift” is the German word for poison.  I hear “gift giving,” and the first thing that comes to my mind is murder. Never ceases to confuse me. 

  9. Thanks Jeff for the post.  The first part of your post, where you sound like Scrooge, is similar to my husband’s attitude about Christmas.  Thankfully, we week to make Christmas about Jesus and relationships, and never really go crazy with the “commercialism” of it.  Of course, we seek to bless our kids with a few things on their wish lists, but never ALL of it.
    Some ways that we choose to do Christmas with the perspective of Christ are participating in Operation Christmas Child, making care packages for mom’s to be at the crisis pregnancy center, cleaning out our excess and donating to the local soup kitchen and being creative with our gift giving with family and friends.
    Spending time with those we love is far more special than exchanging monetary gifts.
    Thanks for the reminder that Jesus calls us as to reach out to the poor.  We all need to open our eyes more and our hearts too!!!

  10. I’m gonna brag on the college students in my small group for a minute here.  There is a lady in my church whose mother recently, suddenly, tragically, died of a heart attack in her 50’s.  She dropped dead at the doorstep to her daughter’s house and her daughter found her lying there.  It was too late.  On top of that her husband had recently left her and their two young children for no good reason.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a tough season for her and her kids.

    Enter Metamorpha.

    A group of about 10-15 broke college kids pooled together and bought every item on her kids’ Christmas wish list.  What’s more, they don’t desire any recognition or credit.  They are going to let the mom wrap the gifts and give them to her kids as if she had bought them herself.

    To see the joy our young men and women found in doing something so simple for someone else was awesome.  It really is more blessed to give than to receive.  And I think in doing so they found the true spirit of Christmas as well.

  11. For years we’ve taken our boys down to the mall, let them pick a Christmas Angel off the tree, and we go Christmas shopping for the child.  Our boys are grown now, but just the same, we all drove down to the mall this year and they picked a name.  They chose a little 4-year-old boy.  We loved shopping again for Legos and Spiderman things and talking about how much little Juan was going to love it.  As we were purchasing the last bit, my 22-year-old said he wished we could give Juan the gifts ourselves.  And I said Yeah, wouldn’t that be cool?  The magic of giving is catching on.   

  12. Jeff, in my opinion this is one of your best posts to date. What a wonderful perspective. I have always loved the Magnificat, and thought that it gives us the perfect content and context for the true meaning of Christmas. Though I have often celebrated Christmas as “the rich,” I need to remember that, in the end, I am the poor one….a poor, miserable sinner who deserves nothing. Yet I have received the greatest gift of all: forgiveness from the Word Made Flesh.

    Thanks for such a great reminder of this.

  13. THIS is what Christmas is all about. Our pastor shared a similar message yesterday. It’s crazy how easy it is for us to forget. It’s not about the presents, the decorations or the parties. It’s about the greatest gift we could ever receive – God’s love. 

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. I hope it inspires people to give of themselves and put the focus where it belongs.

  14. This is one of the greatest perspectives I’ve read on Christmas.
    Why do we tell our kids it’s not about presents and then give them tons of presents?  Why do we even ask if they got everything they wanted?  And what is it that they really want anyway?  More stuff?  Probably because that’s what we as a society tell them they should want.

    It’s such a powerful time of year to reconnect with ourselves and the world by figuring out what we really want and how to get it without spending money.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  15. Thank you. Thank you for writing what many are having a hard time reading.

    It actually breaks my heart to think that the poor ONLY get Christmas for them. Because we shouldn’t only give to the poor during Christmas–yet somehow that’s the only time we do our best giving.

    It’s hard, after growing up in a culture that tells us it’s about what we want and we need more stuff, to shift our mentality to something a little more radical. It’s so very the opposite!

    I literally wrote about these things last week: “Re-thinking Traditional American Christmas” and another post called “Compassion”.

    Kudos, Jeff.

  16. Jeff, I’ve only been reading your blog for a little while, but you always touch a cord somewhere. Thank you for this post and here is a story for you.  God Bless

  17. This is a beautiful post. I love it!

    It reminded me of a quote by St. John Chrysostom (4th c): “The rich exist for the sake of the poor. The poor exist for the salvation of the rich.”

  18. I love coming here and reading your offerings … not only am I enriched by the offering, I meet new people in the comment section … it excites me!  

    This season is different this year than it has ever been … I WAS the poor that people who were way better off felt good about giving to … receiving came with a price for me … at least from the perspective of a young child. I grew up in Japan as the daughter of missionary parents, one of 5 children, born within 6 years of each other.   At Christmas, people sometimes gave us new things, but for the most part, we lived in the hand me downs of the wealthy church members and when we were here those hand me downs were recognized by those who donated.  We never really fit in … Fitting in felt really important and so out of reach.

    I turned my back on Christmas when I left Japan until I had my children with a man who adored all the trappings of it.  It became a giant stressor, especially after we divorced.  Everything your described that your parents went through rang true … there came a point when my 2 children were a little older that I stopped the gift madness and pared it down to things with meaning to them.    There was however always an underlying stress … Will it be good enough?  Will they be disappointed in me .. ha ha … there it is!

    What I know … deeply Know this year is that the true gift/Spirit of Christmas is Jesus … the curse is broken … I walk free and in love and I get to give that love away everywhere everyday.  I get to live from heaven to earth because He came and broke the curse … funny how you can grow up immersed in religion and never hear that truth.  I want to give that away all year.

    Thanks Jeff.  I love coming here!

  19. This past Saturday my wife and I were distributing food from our church’s food ministry. We visited a lady that we had helped several times before. As we stepped into her dark apartment she gave my wife so great a hug, I just knew she was going to to pick her up off the ground. We prayed with her and she would not let us leave. She said now it was her turn. She began to pray one of the most powerful blessings over my family. I really was speechless. Here was a humble lady who had very little, yet she was the greater blessing

  20. I think this is the first blog post that ever made me tear up. I’m facing the fact that this year, I might not be able to give anything for Christmas for anyone. I make under $700 a month, get $200 a month in rent from my roommate and, if I land some freelance work, anything from a few hundred to, sometimes, a thousand. I’ve really been struggling with the idea that I will show up to my family’s for Christmas without any gifts. It really is showing me in a tangible way that Christmas is not about presents.

  21. This is so encouraging Jeff!  Our church will be meeting at a local nursing home this year for our Christmas day service.  We have 4 boys and I believe that this opportunity will be the best present we can offer them.  Christmas time is not a joyful time to so many.  May we each find a way to spread Joy by being a touch of His love to those around us.

  22. Great post, Jeff. Thank you. I posted yesterday about my time living on a boat one Christmas where our family had no money and just wrote letters to each other. THAT was an awesome Christmas I’ll never forget.
    You’re right, Christmas belongs to the poor because Christ was sent for the poor in Spirit  (i.e. all of us).

  23. This post was absolutely wonderful! What a great reminder. I had to laugh out loud at Santa Claus having a heart attack. I think what is most interesting is that we are all poor and needy, whether we realize it or not is a different story. This is what makes the Christmas Story so beautiful. 🙂

    1. Right, Leigh Ann. however, in my experience that can become a throwaway phrase: “We are the poor.” When in reality, we don’t know the first thing about poverty. I’ve found that in order to understand my own spiritual poverty, I need to see physical poverty first-hand. Food for thought.

      1. Yes, yes, and yes!

        Then, the throwaway phrase: “Why does God let bad things happen?” comes to mind. Well, in this case, it’s so we can see our depravity, and see our need for Him. It’s two sides to the stick (whatever that saying actually means). We must see one to see the other. It’s humbling to know that, like you, I must see it before I can get it. But God is not surprised, and in His kindness, He brings tangible examples to help us learn to worship Him in all His glory. It’s amazing really.

        Thanks for the response. I enjoy food for thought.

          1. So sorry! I didn’t realize my husband was signed into his disqus account when I responded. But he was sitting beside me. So I guess it works…ha! Thanks, Jeff! We enjoy your blog so much. 🙂

  24. I agree with you Jeff, Christmas belongs to the poor.

    We were poor – we couldn’t save ourselves  – and so Christ came to save us, die in our place.

    And once we receive such a gift, it’s selfish to keep it to yourself…”freely you have received freely give”.

     Of yourself and everything else that has been entrusted to you.

    Thanks for sharing this perspective…given me inspiration for my Christmas post 🙂 

  25. An amazing call to the true meaning of Christmas. As a kid my parents often got us involved in helping out other families and serving those in need around the holidays. It didn’t cure us of selfish indulgence, but it’s a tradition of sorts I want to pass down to my kids. To show them that the spirit of Christmas doesn’t have to be limited to the month of December. Giving (a form of expressing compassion) is one of the greatest gifts we can receive.

    Thank you

    P.S. I’ll be joining the ranks on World Vision’s blog next Monday. 🙂 

  26. Such a great post! This is exactly what Christmas is all about. I think about how Jesus didn’t come to bring a message to the rich, He came to the poor and to the “least of these.”

  27. Beautiful Jeff! Thank you. Words filled with truth. I think if you’re not already enjoying Ann Voscomb of One Thousand Gifts of Gratitude, you would really appreciate her blog. The post from December 7 will really bless you. It gave me such food for thought. Now am I brave enough to actually do something about my moved heart??

  28. I believe if Christmas is not limited to a date or a season, the world will be filled with days of much giving, loving, caring and bonding…

  29. “And maybe he will lead us, like he promised, out of our own prisons.” Best sentence I’ve read in quite a while. And quite a nice thought as well.

    Incredible post Jeff, thanks.

  30. Excellent post Jeff.  Obviously your words have struck a chord with so many of us.  
    I’m getting to the point where I think that you have to lose the meaning of Christmas at some point to discover its even deeper beauty.  
    Appreciated your examples, we’ve down similar.  These past couple years, we’ve also been trying to figure out what to give to those “that have it all materialistically” but have still lost the essence of Christmas.  It’s different but good-different.

  31. I also was tired of the presents both the giving and the becoming (usually things I really did not want, need or even liked).  This year my husband and I are putting our combined present budget for the family into a community that takes in Refugee Families here in Germany.  We know that it is only a drop in the bucket but since we made the decision Christmas seems calmer, warmer and friendlier this year.  Thanks for putting into words what I have been feeling!  Merry Christmas!

  32. Can i share my Christmas story?

    10 years ago I lived in the inner city of Sydney, a haven for Sydney’s homeless. Every morning I would go to my favourite coffee shop, and Maisey, a homeless woman about 50 plus would sit in her usual doorway. Every morning I would say hello Maisey, to no reply. Maisey would look, and then look away. Every morning the ritual was the same. Hi Maisey, how are you? 12 months of mornings lapsed and it was now Christmas. I walked to my usual coffee shop…no Maisey in the doorway. I sat down and ordered my cappucino. The owner of the coffee shop came out of the kitchen with my coffee and a brown paper bag.  I opened the brown paper bag. It was a brand new copy of Victor Hugo’s, Les Miserables and on the first page was written. “Hello tiny lady (I am 4 ft 10inches). This is my favourite book. Thank you. Merry Christmas – Maisey.” 
    Sometimes, I guess that just saying hello will suffice.  I never saw Maisey on the street again.

    PS. I was told later that Maisey was a very fine concert pianist that had fallen on hard times due to the shock and trauma of a betrayal of her then new husband many years prior. 

    1. That is such a beautiful story.  It’s a good reminder to me to keep on doing what God calls me to even if it doesn’t seem like it’s having an affect.  It does.  Thanks for sharing. 

      1. Dear Dorci,

        Thank you.  Of course, by the time I had finished reading that note from Maisey, I had soaked those pages with floods of tears.  (not just the  little cry, but the big ugly cry…(as Oprah would call it)

        I am including  a favourite poem of mine for you.  Merry Christmas Dorci.

        Sweetpea x

        “Go to the
        Limits of Your Longing” 

        Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows


        God speaks to each of us as he makes us,then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall,go to the limits of your longing.Embody me. Flare up like a flameand make big shadows I can move in. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.Just keep going. No feeling is final.Don’t let yourself lose me. Nearby is the country they call life.You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand.


        Book of Hours, I 59

  33. Hi Jeff – A fellow blogger sent me the link to your post – I had just written a similar post about how I was tired of greed taking over Christmas. ( My husband and I had decided to do gifts this year for people who really needed/deserved something. I love your take on this – very inspiring and a very timely reminder of the true meaning of Christmas…..

  34. Jeff, thanks for the post. I have four young daughters and wanted to help them understand the spirit and heart of Christmas. I have also wanted to publish my writing for years. So a few weeks ago (thanks partly to inspiration from your blog), I dug in, wrote a story of Christmas that was on my heart, and then gave it to my girls. I also published for the first time. It felt SO great to publish  while being able to share a message that was dear to my heart. Thanks for the reminder and your encouragement to a beginning writer.

  35. Jeff, this is an awesome insight. I love how the internet allows us to connect and find like-minded communities regardless where we live.

  36. Jeff…I got to buy a goat and two chickens this year for World Vision.  They sent me a card, with the pictures of a goat and two chickens on the outside.  I put it up in my office, and one of the best parts was to talk about World Vision when my clients wanted to know what the card was about.  The teenagers were most curious, and though it was “way cool.”

  37. Thank you for writing and sharing this beautiful post. I loved it:
    It’s a great reminder about what Christmas is all about…

  38. Christmas is indeed compassion in action. Jesus, in fact, came to save the poor — each of us are spiritually impoverished and without hope apart from Him. But, thank God, He came to rescue us. Joy to the world!

  39. Well done! Yesterday, our missionary hosts from our March mission trip to Haiti posted pics of their Christmas party where the Haitians get to come and receive the gifts that all the mission groups leave behind for them. Our group of 11 left a massive pile so I can only imagine how much more was there. It’s beautiful. I cried. I wish I was there to see their faces. Each Christmas day, we fill brown lunch bags, that my four kids decorate, with little goodies and then we go as a family and deliver them to the folks who have to work on Christmas. The gas station attendant, fast food workers, mini marts, etc. Since we’ll be at my mom’s in Vegas this Christmas, we will be going with her for the first time and delivering our bags in Vegas! And our kids get a few gifts on Christmas and because that’s how it has always been, they are satisfied and completely happy with a little. And then they get to give on Christmas which brings it all back to the gift of Christ.

  40. I love this. I’m also a Scrooge! I’m thankful that this year my parents are giving me funding to return to Haiti in February!

  41. Great thoughts, Jeff! Generosity is in season all year long, but seems especially welcome at Christmas. I’ve been out Christmas caroling with friends in neighborhoods around my church recently. It’s a simple act of generosity, but welcome by most people we meet. I won’t soon forget the middle-aged man who stood in the doorway of his home with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. “Thank you! Thank you–all of you!” he gushed. “You don’t know how much I needed that.” Then he stepped onto his porch and stunned one of my fellow carolers with an enthusiastic hug. I recently suggested some other simple acts of Christmas kindness on my new blog

  42. I give to my denomination’s organization to support mission work in foreign lands. I feel so privileged to do so because for so long I could not.

  43. My daughter and I find a homeless person to surprise with a backpack stuffed with things we think he/she might need to survive on the street. We include things like chapstick, socks, a blanket, beef jerky, gift certificates to a fast food restaurant, a reusable water bottle, a small umbrella, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, sunscreen, and so on. We also add in a few things just for fun like Christmas candy, a puzzle book and pencil, a small Bible, and any other thing that catches our eye. We put a Christmas card from our family inside and sign our names like true friends. We’ve had wonderful responses to this. To see those tired eyes light up and sparkle is priceless.

  44. Jeff,
    This is a great post–inspiring.

    I was given the opportunity to create meals for our local homeless shelter. My job was simple: write the menu, provide recipes. I did that, joyfully. October 2013 has begun my second year of simply writing the menus–but that didn’t seem like enough. This year a few close friends and I are going to be at the shelter, on Christmas night, decorating cookie with the homeless kids and giving them fresh socks and clean underwear. I’m wrapping 20 books with stuffed animals . . .

    I didn’t plan on this. I took one step towards compassion.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can make a difference, in fact it is the only thing hat ever has.” Margaret Meade

  45. Wow! This is a beautiful post on what Christmas is really about. We so often get caught up on the way Christmas is represented by today’s culture that we forget to stop and rejoice on the manger—the greatest gift which is Christ.

  46. Thank you for this great article. Somehow, this year, many talk about
    the true meaning of Christmas. It might be that the Spirit of God is
    trying to remind us of vital things we have lost. It’s so easy to get
    carried away with the current and consider as secondary the things that
    truly matter, like, Who was He that humbled Himself so much as to come and live among us, and for what purpose.

  47. Jeff: I like your concern for the poor & disadvantaged, but these verses are not about those who are poor in material possessions but those who are poor spiritually because of sin and need a Savior. The “rich” here are not those with money but those, whether they have money or not, who do not know Christ as Savior and do not think they need Christ as Savior. Someone can be dirt poor materially but if they believe they do not need Jesus Christ, then they are “satisfied” and “rich” and “blind”. Jesus often went to the poor, not because they the poor are inherently “better” than other people but because the poor often (but not always) are more open to the gospel and the rich often (but not always) are deceived by their money.

  48. Hey, I like your thoughts on Christmas, Jeff!

    I went caroling last week with some friends. I won’t soon forget the middle-aged man who stood in the doorway of his home with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face while we sang “O Come All Ye Faithful.” “Thank you! Thanks too all of you!” he gushed. “You don’t know how much I needed this.” Then he stepped onto his porch and blessed one of our carolers with an enthusiastic hug.

    Christmas offers a great opportunity to do the simple acts of kindness. I wrote more about this recently in a post on my new blog

  49. I wish I could see Christmas as a holiday for the poor but the feeling of buying people cheap gifts or nothing is depressing. Who wants to open a DVD from Walmart? I bought my one friend a pot and pan. If I had a lot of money, I would have loved to buy him the cola streamer. He wanted that a few years ago. I wish I could make a difference but how can I make a difference when I can’t hardly afford to take care of me? I volunteer sometimes but its the people who give the money that really make the difference. God gives me plenty of time but is kind of tight with money. I guess I quit whining now. Sorry. I must have woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

  50. As an aspiring writer and a Christian, I often get discouraged by the way Christians in the limelight not only act, but the way they are treated. It scares me. I know what I believed but I am frightened to face an evil world. Your blog is encouraging. It helps me know that there is a way to do what I want to do, to share the light of Christ and to write, too. Thank you for you blog.

    Thank you also for this post. The evil in our world has been weighing on me lately. This reminder, that Christmas is here, that there is good in the world, that our evil state is not FOREVER, was exactly what I needed.

  51. I was talking with my husband today about making the whole year Christmas for people we see everyday–the folks who wait on us in restaurants and cafes. We make sure to leave good tips year round to let them know they are appreciated.

  52. Wow, I have never looked at Christmas in this way but really should have. This post was eye opening and will change what we prioritize at Christmas from now on. Thank you for this post. It was the right one at the right time.

  53. Thank you, Jeff; very nice post. I would like to add some additional perspective given you’re a new father. As you will soon discover, Christmas takes on a whole new meaning once you have kids. The excitement of the season – the tree, the ornaments, the songs, the stockings, Christmas morning – all of these and other traditions will take on new meaning for you because you’ll get to experience them through the eyes of your child. You’ll be reminded that Christmas is a magical time. Before all of the materialism and marketing kicks in and your son is inundated with all of the B.S., there is magic. I now get so excited for this season because of the joy I see in children’s faces. They believe in something magical and it reminds me that we all need to believe in something magical. I encourage you to enjoy this magic while you introduce him to your valuable message, which you so eloquently present here. Thanks again and Merry Christmas.

  54. Thanks for sharing your perspective on Christmas. My experience with delivering Christmas gifts to the poor is somewhat different than yours. One of the years I participated in a similar experience, I arrived only to discover that the “less fortunate” family had nicer cars than my family did and larger TV’s than we did. Not to say that they weren’t in need, but it had the opposite effect on my life than I believe most would anticipate. To me it spoke to the fact that all of us spend money on things we don’t need which puts us in precarious positions when it comes to what we do need.

    I have had a hard time reconciling my experience with what I know is a reality: there are plenty of people who do not choose to be homeless and who do not choose to spend their few resources on non-necessities.

    Your article has reminded me to continue to process this reality and pray that I can see my heart moved to the place it should be.

    Thanks Jeff.

  55. Me and my (now grown) kids have been on the receiving end of Christmas, where a van load of gifts, christmas tree with all the trimmings and food showed up unexpectedly to our poor home. We aren’t poor anymore but there are those who are, and its time to give back. I don’t quite know why we need a reminder every year, what its really about but I appreciate this blog. Very thought provoking. I can resonate with Dave a bit, it is hard to decipher who it is that’s really in need between those who will just sit back and accept. Maybe I have the wrong idea but regardless I shouldn’t let this keep me from giving back.

  56. thanks Jeff. the long reach of America, thanks to media has alas infected us with the ‘everything you want’ too…So i try to pull back and remind myself and others what it’s all about. this morning i wrote about it in my blog: the gift has come with a description tag. if we don’t read the tag, we mistake the gift!

  57. A few years as an aid worker left a lasting discomfort at the amount of gifts given in our home countries. It’s getting to the point where it is quite a task to get them all open on Christmas day and you can’t say anything unless you want to get shot down as a scrooge.

    Thankfully the grown ups in my own family are at last coming around to the idea of a token present, just a book or a music CD etc. Easier to shop for and less waste/unwanted presents.

    I personally like the idea of ONE nice present, rather than loads of ‘stocking fillers’, read stuff that’ll end up thrown or given away. After all, you can only ‘play’ with one at a time.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours Jeff, I wish you peace and happiness in 2014,
    Stay well.

  58. Jeff, what a loving and compassionate person you are. God Bless you. My mom passed away earlier this year. During last year’s Christmas preparation, she had me create and send this song to a few of my relatives. I am sure you will truly enjoy it. Be well, my friend. It’s a pleasure getting to know you here and on Platform University – Michelle Marie Perron – @perronservices:disqus

  59. nice post, jeff!
    I believe in my heart that Christmas is all about our Savior Jesus Christ, that by accepting Him in our life, will set us free from all unrighteousness and selfishness. And our faith in the Son of God will always result in reaching out to others. It’s not a superficial acts of kindness, but a good will that radically comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Helping the poor will make them thank our Father in heaven and rejoice in Him. To God be the glory! Godbless you! 🙂

  60. Excellent post, Jeff. For the last few years, I’ve been trying to get my family to drift away from holiday shopping and gift exchanging and just enjoy the gift of spending time together. I should make another push to get us to work together and help someone less fortunate than us as well.

  61. There are plenty of people who are not poor who need gifts as well. You can also find people who feel disconnected or left out and bring them in. We should all work hard all year long to end homelessness and poverty. there is no reason for these circumstances in such a wealthy nation. I agree it would be better for everyone if Christmas was a time of compassionate giving, and not a time for filling everyone’s material desires.

  62. Excellent and so timely, Jeff. Not timely just because it’s Christmas, but because I think as a society too many of us forget to look beyond ourselves and our own.

    My husband and I join with our church family in supporting Boys & Girls Club by supplying gifts for some of their after-school kids. We also give gifts in honor of family members for Campus Crusades and Worldreader. And we limit our family gift giving to the grandkids.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  63. So glad you shared this again. “We don’t give to the poor; they give to us.” That’s got to be the most beautiful part of serving others..that cycle of emptying ourselves and then being filled up! Merry Christmas to you!

  64. Nice post, Jeff. I’ll be taking a week or so away from the blogging world, so I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2014!

  65. Thanks for this reminder, Jeff. I don’t think there’s any better gift we can give to ourselves than giving to others. At some point, there’s a yawning emptiness to the pursuit of having everything we want. But the opposite is found in sharing with those in need. The more I give, the more I want to give.

  66. Like all your posts, this too is beautiful and inspiring! Thanks for sharing again! Blessed and joyous Christmas to you and your family!

  67. this has been sitting in my inbox all week, but with the traveling & shopping & adventing, well.
    THANK YOU for being honest. thank you for taking real action. & thank you for showing up in this place to put it out there for the rest of us.
    we need this kind of christmas. hallelujah.

  68. It may sound rather strange, but I go to work. I’m a night nurse in a nursing home. Christmas is an emotional time of year for a lot of our residents. And for me personally it doesn’t hold that much weight. So I love going to work at Christmas and hear their stories. Be there for them. I can’t fill the void not being with their family creates. But I can try and make it bearable for them.

  69. You share my views Jeff. I much rather bless those who need my blessings. My husband is preparing to leave on Dec.29 for a 10 day trip to Haiti. We have spent the last few days preparing for his trip, purchasing things here in America to bless the people in Haiti.

  70. The most magical Christmas I ever had? I spent months chairing a project to buy underprivileged kids all new clothes at Christmas. We raised the money in our community and worked with stores at the mall to offer incredible deals. A few days before Christmas, we took 450 kids shopping with 150 volunteers. These kids were coming to school with no socks or coats; holes in their shoes – mostly kids from migrant families. They got pants, shirts, coats, shoes, socks and underwear. They got toys from Santa. (so did their siblings, thanks to a huge surplus of donated toys). As I watched the line of excited kids (all between 7 and 9 years old) I felt an outpouring of love that could only be described as ‘Christmas’.

  71. Charities should always, always give the gifts to the parents so they can have the joy and gratitude. Put yourself in the shoes of a man who can’t buy gifts for his kids, watching some stranger put light in their eyes while he withdraws in humiliation. Giving yourself the worm fuzzies by charging in with your arms full is just not right! Being in the trenches and having read Toxic Charity opened my eyes to the disrespect and disregard for dignity that often accompanies charity.

  72. Well said, “.. I learned what December 25 is really about: compassion.” One of my favourite quotes by Charles Dickens, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” This year Christmas, my friend and I would pool a small sum of money to buy some necessities for some children cancer patients.

  73. Okay, I’m trying not to cry now. I went through years where I didn’t feel the magic of Christmas and then some years back I just decided I would celebrate and be joyful and believe in the magic. And part of that, a big part of that, is giving.

  74. The following is what I have been writing in the Christmas cards to Family and Friends, for this 2014.

    “The spirit of Christmas should not only be for one day, but the whole year!

    Take a moment to reflect on your merriest memories of 2014! As you look towards the New Year, look beyond yourself and your own and take a moment to ensure those less fortunate don’t ever feel that they have been forgotten.

    My family and I wish you and yours the absolute BEST this Christmas / Holiday Season and for a Safe and Prosperous New Year!”

  75. I think I really got a revelation about the first Christmas. Sounds crazy right? Even as I’m writing this. I am past retirement and heard the Christmas story all my life. But this year a few nights before Christmas I was outside walking through snow (we get a lot on the Canadian Prairie) and as I looked up at the endless sky, feathery snowflakes were falling & I started to visualize the Shepherds that night quietly watching their flocks. these were ordinary guys! Well I kept writing about it & used it for my Christmas blog entitled: Wish I Could Have Been There That Night! I can’t stop thinking about it. Imagine Joseph’s concerns trying to get Mary to a place where she could safely give birth! Even the Inn keeper had an important part of that night. Think about it. Shepherds come through looking for the stable, shouting & telling everyone who could hear their great news! These were poor, hard working people, they weren’t flying around on private jets or using Limousine services. That is what kept going through my heart this Christmas day! I was really able to think past presents and food!Wishing everyone all the best for 2016. Blessings, Lane @:Memory Lanes Site.

  76. I live in Dallas and I’ve had numerous homeless stints over the years until I finally got back on my feet. So, in gratitude on several fronts I decided at Christmas of 1997 to do something that I was fairly certain had never been done before – by anyone in the U.S. or elsewhere.
    I made arrangements to book a half-dozen rooms at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Dallas and then I gave the keys to the rooms to 13 local homeless people – two homeless guests per room. And in the evening I took them all to the nearby Catholic Cathedral to participate in a beautiful Christmas Eve service. The real meaning of Christmas. Celebrating the Birthday of Jesus in the house of God with Christmas carols being sung and the Christmas Spirit of fellowship being shard by all.
    What a joyous time it was for all of us in 1997, and I decided then-and-there that I would be doing this same giveaway every Christmas Eve for a long, long time. Every year it has gotten better as my homeless guests were treated as Kings and Queens on Christmas Eve. The count over the years was as low as 13 special guests to as high as 170 guests for a couple years.
    So, this Christmas Eve of 2017 I will be celebrating my 20th year anniversary in giving the homeless of Dallas a Christmas they will never forget. It has turned into a stellar event and at the end of the evening I always feel that I just might experience the most special Christmas Eve of anyone. In giving the homeless this very special treat I have certainly felt many blessings and tidings of good cheer coming my way.
    If you wish to actually see my Christmas Eve event please go to You Tube and type in “Angelic Christmas Crusade 2014.” I’ve got a feeling you’ll be touched by what you view. God Bless!

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