This has been an interesting Advent/Christmas season for me.  As people came to our house during Advent, the huge Jesse tree always became a topic of conversation.   Friends and acquaintances had a tough time wrapping their minds around what we are doing with this rather large bundle of twigs and branches on our kitchen table.  More than a few, however, when we explained that we were reading through the Scriptures with our family in order to see the waiting, longing, and need for a Messiah, thought it was pretty neat.  (What I found interesting is that those who would not claim to be followers of Jesus found it more intriguing than those who were.  Perhaps, there is a certain numbness that comes within any religious circles…we think we already know the story, so why would we have to read it over and over, year after year?)

But whatever sort of responses I got to our Advent activities, it was nothing compared to trying to explain that Christmas is a season and not just a day…and that we would not be opening presents on Christmas Day (although we did a few little ones) but rather spreading them out through the whole 12 days to celebrate the Incarnation.  All around as we’ve seen people at church, the grocery store, or our neighborhood, the question we consistently get is “what did you get for Christmas?  what was your favorite  present?”  (I am a little cheeky and so I want to answer that I got Jesus – God with Us – for Christmas…but I’ve restrained myself!!)  I am simply getting used to explaining the 12 days of Christmas and getting some glassy-eyed stares and polite smiles!

However, I do have a favorite present from this year (and I know it will remain my favorite even though there are still presents under the tree to be opened.)

This last year we have been trying to teach our children about how to handle money and so we’ve helped them come up with a system of giving, long term savings, and short term savings (ie. spending).   All year long they have added up each of these categories and kept a record of them…and watched their money increase.   They had to give at least 10% to giving, but our daughter, who was born with the gift of generous giving, almost consistently put between 35 and 50% into her giving category!!  Not bad for a 12 year old!!!)

A few weeks ago, the World Vision catalog arrived at our house and as our children went through it, they became giddy with excitement.  They realized that they could buy goats, chickens, clothing, soccer balls…really whatever…for people in other parts of the world!!!  They had the money and they set out to write their “Christmas List” of what they wanted to do with their giving money.  ( In fact, we had a birthday party for our son a week or so ago and he asked that instead of gifts people could give him money toward his World Vision fund!)

So on the 23rd we went down to World Vision’s headquarters (we live very nearby) in order to give the money.  We stopped by the bank beforehand, pulled out the cash for each kid and gave it to them in an envelope to carry.  As we walked in to the lobby, both of our children were bubbling over with excitement!!    They both ran up to the counter and announced that they had money they wanted to give and they wanted to “buy” things from the catalog!!  I think the little lady sitting behind the desk was a little overwhelmed!

What insued over the next 20 minutes or so brought tears to my eyes.  Our children deliberated and calculated just how best to spend their money.  They agonized over where the money would go and even verbalized that they felt like they didn’t enough to give as much as they wanted to.  They knew the money was God’s but they wanted it to be used to the “most it could be”.  Then they gladly marched up to the counter, told the lady what they wanted to “buy”, gladly handed over their money and walked away with a huge grin on their faces!!

THAT was my best gift!!  I don’t even think I need any others.  To watch my children give generously and so gladly fills my heart!!  To see them want to give money for Kingdom Work is a part of my desire for them.  To get to be present as they experience the joy of giving to God is priceless!!

Later we walked through World Vision’s visitor center where our hearts were torn by the immense poverty and needs in this world and the hope that some followers of Jesus are just audacious enough to bring into dark places.   And I asked God, then and there, to not only let my kids know the joy of giving money to His work around the world, but to take them there as well, letting them participate firsthand in how these monies are making a difference in the lives of people.