A Christmas Challenge

The Advent season is here, can you feel it? Can you feel the skipped heartbeats of anticipation, the waiting and excitement for the coming of our King, the Prince of Peace. Yes, Him, Jesus, the reason for the season. The Christ in Christmas is coming, let the celebration begin. Drop what you’re doing and rejoice on bended knee because nothing, nothing else matters more. Right?

Wait a minute, not so fast, you say. I have a lot I need to get done first.

We all do, don’t we? The tree, the decorations and lights, greeting cards, the cookies, the cake for the party, the party, the cleaning before the party and after, other parties to attend, and I haven’t even started my shopping yet! And, I am so busy at work, you have no idea.

Feeling stressed yet? Merry Christmas!

For many of us, Advent is the coming of craziness. A seasonal race to endure. The starting pistol buried somewhere in the corrugated cartons or plastic bins we drag out into our living rooms once a year.

Our 21st century Advent, and the ever-hedging pre-Christmas season, is more like a 23-day plus performance. One that can be so consuming and stressful, we can find ourselves celebrating something else about a week after the arrival of our long-awaited savior—our survival in making it through another Christmas.

I want to challenge you. Take a breath for a moment while you consider these questions. Do you really want another commercial-crusted Christmas stuffed with “have to do’s” rather than “want to do’s”? Do you want to spend the next month chasing the perfect Christmas—earning  empty praise and approval along the way for your effort?

Back to the challenge. Wouldn’t it be refreshing, welcoming and fitting to say the least, to put Christ back in the center of Christmas? This Advent, I invite you to take #TheSparkleBoxChallenge. An easy to do tradition, one your whole family can participate in to put, and keep your focus on Christ.

#TheSparkleBoxChallenge is easy. Put a gift box for Jesus under your Christmas tree this year—a Sparkle Box. Fill it with gifts you are giving Him and open it on Christmas morning. I promise you it will put your focus on Christ as you think about what you will give Jesus for Christmas. We started this tradition in our own family about 12 years ago…and our Christmas has never been the same. The stress. The have-to’s and do-I-have-enough-to-give-my-kids is gone. In its place is Jesus. And the peace and love that fill our hearts when we focus on Him.

Since #TheSparkleBoxChallenge is about honoring Jesus with a gift on Christmas, His birthday, think of how you can really bless someone in need. Be intentional about making a difference in someone’s life. There are many people around the world and in our own communities that lack basic necessities, food, clothing, clean water, education and more. How can you bless them or their family with a gift? Jesus taught us when we take care of others in need, we are doing it for Him. This gift to someone else is your gift to Jesus.

On a slip of paper, write down your gift and put it in your Sparkle Box. Open the box on Christmas morning and feel the joy.

I invite you to put Jesus at the center of Christmas morning by trying what my family has done for the last 12 years. Every year, we find this experience to be deeply meaningful and a powerful way to usher in Christmas morning. First, before the shreds of wrapping paper go flying, say a prayer. Give thanks. Thank Jesus for coming to us and showing us what God’s love looks like and how we can be that love to others. Open your Sparkle Box and take turns reading aloud the gifts you are giving Christ on His birthday. Feel the immense joy that comes from giving a gift to the greatest gift of all.

-Tim Hardie

The Sparkle Box Challenge is inspired by a picture book for people of all ages called The Sparkle Box. Written by Jill Hardie, The Sparkle Box is based on our family’s tradition of giving a gift to Jesus. Check it out, along with great activities you can do to make this tradition meaningful at www.TheSparkleBox.com. And have a very merry and blessed Christmas!

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