That “never enough” feeling at Christmas? You’re not alone.

Never enough time. Never enough done. Never enough presents. It’s the place we can find ourselves as Christmas day closes in on us. That’s how it can feel, right? Like time is closing in. Our finances are stretched and we are looking around thinking, have I done enough? Will my kids feel like this was a good enough Christmas? My parents? My friends? Did I make the most of this Season of Joy?

I get it. I’ve been there. As a mom, I’ve counted presents under the tree wondering did I get enough, or too much? Are the number and value of the presents about the same? Maybe I should put one of my daughter’s presents away for her birthday so it looks more even between the kids. And then my gaze falls on the stockings hung by the chimney with care. Is it my imagination, or does one look fuller than the other? Maybe the drug store is still open, I think. I could pick up a few more stocking stuffers.

On Christmas morning, it’s over in seconds. And never enough becomes a pit in the stomach. Where has the joy of Christmas gone? you may wonder. It’s still there. It always has been. Hidden behind the lights and glitter and parties and presents, the joy of Christmas is waiting.

Remember Me, Christmas asks. Remember Me.  

As wrapping paper flies, thoughts of Jesus are a million miles away. I get it. I was there with you. Gauging the looks on my children’s faces. My husband’s face. My parents’ faces. Is it enough? Did I do enough?

And then one Christmas morning my family did something different before we opened our presents. We acknowledged Jesus by giving Him gifts before we opened our own. Mittens and gloves for someone in need. Food for the hungry.  Freedom for a child enslaved on a fishing boat, purchased for $14.00. Dear Jesus, we prayed, We give these gifts to you in honor of your birthday because we know you want us to take care of each other. You don’t want people to go hungry, or be cold. You want us to be light in the darkness of this world. So with humble hearts, we give these gifts to You. For you taught us that whatever we do for those in need, we do for You. Thank you for the gift of your love, Jesus. Thank you for coming to earth as a baby to teach us about God’s love and how to love each other. We love You. Happy birthday, Jesus.

With those words, never enough became more than enough. Christmas became love overflowing. Right there in our living room, we experienced it. God’s love with us! Emmanuel. Our hearts sang with joy beyond measure–and nothing needed measured again. It was enough. Every gift, every treat, every carol, every moment was infused with the love of Emmanuel.

The experience of giving Jesus a gift can’t be adequately described in words. It’s like the birth of a child, or the kindness of a stranger that is so profound you wonder if you were visited by an angel. Until it happens to you, you can’t truly imagine it.

We want you to experience this love more than anything. Christmas Eve is the perfect time to think of a gift for Jesus. Put it under your tree. You can put the gift in a Sparkle Box if you have one, or in a gift bag if you don’t. And then—don’t skip this part—read your gift to Jesus on Christmas morning, thanking Him for becoming God with us. Feel the joy that comes from giving a gift to the greatest gift of all.

Visit TheSparkleBox.com for gift ideas for Jesus. You’ll find a link to Network for Good, a national organization with over 100,000 nonprofits you can search for by cause, name, or even location. You’ll also find ideas for how you can bless someone in need in your community or neighborhood. We love giving a gift to Jesus on His birthday so much, we give Him a birthday gift every year. It’s even changed the way we live, love and serve year-round…bringing more joy to our lives than we ever dreamed possible. The Sparkle Box is an award-winning children’s book written to share this tradition with people of all ages, and it’s available to read online for free through Dec. 31, 2018, courtesy of Worthy Publishing. I hope you’ll read it: TheSparkleBox.com–and share! Merry Christmas!

My encounter with Jesus.

The handshake was more hand-grab. A claiming. He was not going to let go as soon as I’d anticipated or wanted and his face showed it—victory.

I was captive, so he thought. My reaction to pull away was met with a firmer, doubling of the grip—smooth, unworked and warehoused hands holding unto a new friend. A passerby naive enough to make eye contact and say, “Hello, how are you?”

And so, temporarily at least, I submitted, hovering over his wheelchair-bound frame wondering how many times a day he sets the bait of extended hand and catches nothing.

Christmas can often be a time of guarding “our time,” a season of conflicting, battling schedules. Swirled into our normal day-to-day events, we scamper to and from all things Christmas. We dodge suggestions for our time accepting or declining requests however the almighty schedule directs us. It’s exactly what brought me to our local nursing home this Tuesday afternoon. I had plans to visit my friend Chris, but in the walk to his room, was snared unscheduled by a trapper. 

Standing, hand captured in the hall near the nurse’s station, I began conversing with the man, looking into his wide and glassy eyes. They widened more at my talk and the man became enthused responding in a babble I couldn’t decipher. Realizing I could not understand, his plea became louder and indignant. Looking to the nurse behind the counter I was met with a raised eyebrow and closed-lip half smile which I interpreted as, “Don’t look at me kid you took the bait, you’re on your own.” I got it, felt no severe judgement against her. Behind her smile, I saw a tired, jaded nurse. I saw myself if I were an underpaid staffer burned-out and poured dry by the grind of eldercare. Selfishly, I saw time slipping, my schedule encroached upon. 

Troubled that I was still subtly pulling from the trapper’s grip, I surrendered my hand a little, then more, then completely. Take it, I thought. I’m not in a hurry anymore. What’s on your mind? What is it you so desperately want me to know? The man began to cry as his explanation continued.

Emanuel is here, I thought. Here is Christ! Right here, is where God with us is born! He comes unexpectedly, unscheduled in the going, challenging us to open eyes and heart. “Here I am,” He proclaims. “Look at me,” he pleads, grabbing our hand passing by. “I’m right here, the lonely, the least of men. Where are you? Where have you been?”

I looked deeper into the trapper’s watery eyes, placing my free hand over his grip. He slowly quieted and the silence closed in on us. Looking back across the counter my human self selfishly wanted the nurse to take notice, to acknowledge the calm. My true self, my child of God self, continued studying this man of heart peeled open with my own heart peeled open.

Lost in that moment, all I could find to answer his pleading look was, “You know, it’s going to be alright. You’re going to be alright.”

He smiled toothless, sprung the trap and uttered clear enough to discern as I said goodbye and walked away, “You a good man, a good man.”

My friend’s room was empty, his brother had sprung him for lunch. I was disappointed not to see him but was hopeful returning to the nurse’s station that I’d see the trapper. But no one. No patients in sight. In the parking lot I sat in the car, effected by and doubting his words. Wanting to be a better man.

Tim Hardie