There's no getting around it: Christmas in the 21st century is a big business. We'd suggest that the perfect antidote to the crass commercialism and consumerism of Christmas is an attitude of service. What better way to take the focus off ourselves and the "stuff" that somehow seems so important at Christmas? The Bible reminds us that "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The Child in the manger is a portrait not of kingly elegance and excess but of humility and service.
A date with your spouse will give you the opportunity to take a break from the holiday grind and invest as a couple in the well-being of someone else. Through volunteering your time and talent in service to others, you'll experience the satisfaction of making a positive impact on an individual, a group or even your entire community. What's more, you'll likely experience a deeper marital bond and sense of intimacy through serving together.
Your Christmas date can go one of two ways: You might want to simply combine your date and your service project into one event. Or if your crowded holiday calendar allows, you can go on a regular date to plan and talk about your volunteer ideas and then actually perform your act of service at a later time. This second approach would allow you to enjoy some quality couple time on your date and then involve your kids in the actual service project later.
Activity: Pick an activity that appeals to both of you (as well as your children, if you choose to involve them). Then put it on the calendar so that it won't become lost amid the general hustle and bustle of the season. Here are just a few possibilities:
- Sign up to help with a local toy drive or, if you're really ambitious, initiate a toy drive of your own.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or with an organization that collects and distributes coats, hats and gloves to the homeless.
- Inquire at a local store about the possibility of giftwrapping shoppers' presents for a small donation. Then give the money to a local charity or an organization such as Compassion International or World Vision.
- Consider buying a present, baking Christmas cookies or doing something else to let someone who will be alone at Christmas know that he or she is loved. Perhaps there's a widower living nearby or a college student who can't afford to travel home for the holidays. You might even invite this person to take part in your family's own Christmas festivities.
- Gather some friends and family members and go Christmas caroling. Ask local nursing homes and care facilities about the possibility of spending an evening singing Christmas carols for the residents.
- Offer to help neighbors get their home ready for Christmas. Perhaps an older couple or a single-parent family near you could use assistance with shoveling snow, hanging Christmas lights, putting up decorations or other tasks.
Questions: After your activity, go somewhere quiet for coffee, hot chocolate or an eggnog latte and discuss the following questions:
- What was your all-time favorite Christmas gift?
- What's the worst Christmas gift you've ever received?
- What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?
- What is one gift I can give you this year that doesn't cost money?
- What Christmas activity do you enjoy most (e.g., looking at Christmas lights, seeing The Nutcracker, Christmas shopping)?
- Growing up, did your family ever engage in an act of service to others around the holidays?