One of the highlights of each of my years of teaching was Christmas time. Being in a public school where even the name of Jesus at Christmas time was forbidden, I had to be careful, I wanted, however, for my students to learn the true meaning of Christmas, and it didn’t whether I was teaching Grade 1 or high school, I always organized a gift exchange. I would have the students draw random names from a paper bag, and each student was asked to spend no more than 10$ to purchase a gift for the person whose name they drew.
Naturally, there were always a few students in my classrooms who could not afford even a 10$ gift. I always kept a stash of gifts for these students, so that the classmate they drew would also be able to have a gift.
As days led up to Christmas, excitement always grew in the classroom. The students couldn’t wait to see the presents. They were almost as eager to see what their friends had received as they were to see what they, themselves received!
Somewhere in this gift exchange, I always tried to help the students see that if Jesus were in the classroom, He would have a present for each of them as well. These moments would always be covered in prayer, for I could only talk about God if I was specifically asked; but more often than not, some student would ask me what I meant, and I would be able to tell them about the greatest gift of all.
As Christmas time approaches this year, most of us will be scurrying to find the perfect gifts for friends and family, and it will be very easy to forget the reason for Christmas. It’s easy to forget that “…Christ Jesus…being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-8 NIV). Yet this is, by far, the greatest gift of all. Doesn’t it deserve a bit of contemplation, especially at the time of year that Christians everywhere celebrate His birth?
And on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which ever day you choose to exchange gifts, everyone is usually so wrapped up in the gifts they are receiving that it will be difficult to remember the reason for the season. I urge each of you to begin planning now. In the days leading up to Christmas, be sure to cover your gift exchange in plenty of prayer, for despite the temptation to focus on the gifts instead of the Gift Giver, Christmas time opens up a golden opportunity for us to witness to our family and friends about the ultimate gift.
Of course, you may wonder if your family will go along with such a thing. After all, they are beyond eager to see what is in those boxes… How will they respond?
At our home, my wife has been giving a little mini-sermon before our family gift exchanges for the past several years. Initially these were short; but as the years have gone by, they have become longer and longer, sometimes taking up more time than the actually exchanging of gifts.
How has our family responded? We are all happy to report that our adult children and their spouses have come to eagerly anticipate this part of our Christmas celebration. They join in the discussion with eager participation, and Christ’s name is glorified. When asked later if they want us to continue the tradition, the response is always an avid, “yes”!
And somehow, as a result, each one of us is far more likely to think about Jesus’ ultimate gift when it is our turn to open gifts from one another…
In His love,
(To access the entire “Christmas With Students” devotional series, please click here.)