Last Christmas season I had a friend take his two younger children to Walmart. Outside of Walmart they saw Santa Claus ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, asking for donations. Dad didn’t let his children stop to say hi, in a rush to get items mom needed for the office Christmas party. Dad promised his kids they would talk to Santa on their way out.
Heading out of Walmart, Santa was gone and my friend’s kids were bummed. They went around the corner looking for him and they found “Santa” around the building, sitting on a turned-over bucket with his beard off, smoking a cigarette.
The kids eyes were as big as baseballs. This Santa was a pretender. Dad was left with an awkward justification on bad Santa’s behalf.
The word Christian literally means, Christ-like, or, little Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God and, with that, we believe God is love. So, for a Christian to not be loving toward others means we are not taking our devotion to Jesus as seriously as we verbally claim
No more pretending. No more words and actions not aligning. Will the real Christians please stand up? Because people need love to change their lives.
I know of an older woman who walked up to a younger woman who was getting into her beat up minivan in the Goodwill parking lot. With no specific need to address, the older woman gave $100 to the younger woman, someone she didn’t know, no questions asked. The older woman simply said, You are loved.
The mini-van woman said she makes $40 too much per month to qualify for government assistance and that she’s been needing medication for a while and that the $100 gift would go to groceries and medicine for her and her family.
That’s just what Christians should do. It’s what people who think about others do.
When Christians love others radically, I think Jesus claps and cheers and whistles and shouts in a much larger way than sports fans do when their team makes a big play. When we love with no-strings attached, Jesus is high fiving angels and He’s Tiger Woods fist-pumping.
Here are 30 radical ways we can love on others this Christmas season (and any season):
- Leave a tip for your waiter/waitress that is double the amount of your meal. Write on the receipt, Jesus loves you, or, You are loved.
- Bake cookies with your children or your nieces/nephews and go around the neighborhood delivering them (neighbors are more receptive to smiling children at their door).
- Go to an Aldi or Piggly Wiggly grocery store (or a grocery store where people have to bag their own groceries) and choose to bag groceries voluntarily for the elderly or the disabled checking their food out. While there, choose someone you can pay for their groceries, no questions asked.
- Go to a local laundromat, where people go in the evening to do their laundry, and hand out bags of quarters.
- Depending on where you live, mow the yard of an elderly neighbor or single mom, rake their leaves or plow the snow off their driveway and sidewalk.
- Depending on where you live, take hot chocolate or popsicles to construction workers working earnestly.
- Whenever you see a moving truck in your neighborhood, stop your schedule and ask if you can help unload or load items.
- Buy coloring books, stuffed animals, action figures and go to your local Children’s Hospital and deliver them to kids battling cancer.
- Make homemade Christmas cards for those in nursing homes, delver them personally and sit and listen to each elderly person you visit, as very few people take time for them.
- Gather a group of friends and go pick up trash at your local community park.
- When your child talks about a friend at their school who doesn’t have much, go and buy them a new winter coat, or new gym shoes. Wrap it as a Christmas gift.
- Walk around your local school and pray for the principals, teachers, counselors, cafeteria workers and janitors. Pray that they would love Jesus and be a positive influence on the children in that school.
- Blitz the police and fire stations with homemade goodies and gift cards.
- Get a haircut and leave a large, jaw-dropping tip.
- Order boxes of pizza for carry-out, get some chips and bottles of water and take them to your nearest Urgent Care waiting room around dinner time and hand out free food. You could ask anyone sick if you could pray for them.
- Whenever you are in the drive-thru at Starbucks or a fast-food joint, pay for the car behind you.
- Pursue the paperwork needed to foster a needy child in your home.
- Write a letter of gratitude to someone in our military serving abroad (you can also write a letter of encouragement to a missionary you know or one your church is supporting).
- Cook a large crockpot of your infamous chili and set up a small table near your walking trail or busy sidewalk and offer $3 for the best bowl of chili ever. Then, give the money away to a local charity.
- Stand by your nearest bus stop, and in a non-creepy, friendly way, pass out free balloons or balloon animals already made to the kids getting off the bus.
- Take all of the junk in your home – the trinkets, the clothes not worn, the toys not played with, and instead of having a garage sale with price tags, have a garage sale without any price tags. Give it all away. It’s all free. You’ll get to know your neighbors more that way.
- For Christmas, ask for gardening tools. Make the plans next year to till your yard, plant seeds in it, water it and grow fruit and vegetables and give that food away (or make something with it) to a low-income family.
- Write a hand-written letter to a teacher, thanking them genuinely for pouring their knowledge and love into the mind and heart of your child. Put flowers or a gift card to go with the letter.
- Write a hand-written letter to someone in your past who inspired you to become who you are.
- Write a hand-written letter to someone who has hurt you, or you have hurt them, and either forgive or apologize, aiming for reconciliation.
- Sign up and get a background check to serve meals at your local homeless shelter. Smile like crazy. Encourage others non-stop. Sit down at the table and listen to the stories of those who have it difficult.
- Tape $1 bills to a vending machine with a note that says, Buy something for yourself, use the rest to buy treats for others around you.
- Leave great online reviews on Google/Angie’s List/Home Advisor/Yelp! for any local, small business you support or utilize.
- Offer to babysit for friends who could use a much-needed date night during this busy time.
- When you hear about a millennial who can’t afford make it home for Christmas, use your air miles or your money to get them home.
The creative and practical ideas could go on and on.
The issue is we can have these ideas or read the ideas of others to be a more loving person, and we leave it at that. We allow routine and the tasks at hand to take over our willingness to purposefully stop and ask, How can I radically love this person right now? Forget what I want. Forget what I need to do. How can I love this person, right now?
A few years ago I was running late to church on a Sunday morning. It happens 50% of the time that when I’m running late, my gas tank is on empty. Frequently, I’m out of time and out of gas.
I pulled over into a gas station and started filling up and I noticed the man behind me looked disheveled, worried, fidgety and depressed. I asked him if he was okay, and he waved me off as if to say he was fine and he’ll figure his own problems out. I still pursued because he looked troubled. Knowing I wouldn’t leave him alone while my gas pumped, he welcomed me over.
I offered to pay for his gas and he started to cry. In tears he confessed to me he had been driving around aimlessly for an hour this Sunday morning looking for any reason on why he shouldn’t kill himself.
A smile, a prayer, a hug and a free tank of gas gave this man the reason he was looking for. Its’ called hope.
Let’s play, Would God Rather? Would God rather I ignore the man next to me at the gas station who looks troubled so I can be on time to church worship, or would God rather, I take time for the man and walk into church late?
Do we get it? Our selfishness and our schedule and our insular instincts cannot dominate our heart this time of year.
In my circle of friends is a young mom who took the challenge to love others radically. She told me she left a tip for a waitress, whom she found out was a single mom, that was equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries for her family. That’s quite a sacrifice.
It didn’t end there.
While my friend was getting in her car to leave the restaurant, a homeless woman knocked on the driver’s side window. My friend rolled down his window and this woman in need said, Do you have $5? I need money for a bus ticket, I’m stranded and I need $5 to get home to my kids.
My friend opened her wallet and gave the needy woman $10.
Then my friend watched the needy woman get in a running car and speed away. My friend had been taken advantage of. It would’ve been easy to judge that woman, to think that she’ll get what’s coming to her.
Except this is what my generous friend wrote to me in an email,
I began immediately to feel compassion for that woman. I saw her as a deprived child crying out these words, “While you’re giving out love and prayers of generosity, would you save some for me?” The time this happened in our day was around 1:00pm and I don’t know if I’ll ever see this woman again but for the past 4 days at 1:00pm I have prayed for her. And not only have I developed a more compassionate heart toward what she did, God’s Spirit of truth has shown me that I am like that woman to Him. I’m the swindler that asks God for some forgiveness and He gives graciously and freely and then I turn my back on Him and run to my sin, speeding off. I’m the beggar who asks God to provide for me and then I spend everything He gives on my wants and pleasures. Thankfully God’s mercy isn’t dependent on my actions! He forgives. He forgets. He covers me in love. The very least I can do today and every day is cover other people in love. As for me, I simply want to join and love more people in an authentic way.
What about you?
This is the time of year people’s needs are exposed and their hearts are more open to those around them providing acts of generosity and love for them. Let’s get to it.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.