Our family Christmas tradtitions begin each year just before Thanksgiving when we gather boxes from our church's "Shoebox Christmas" stacks. You can see pictures of it here.
This tradition is all about teaching our kids that it's not all about them. What it is about is sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others and recognizing that God sent us the most precious gift in His son and we are to share that gift in anyway posible, using words if necessary. So, when the 1000 shoeboxes show up at church, all tagged with genders and ages of children that need gifts either in Mexico or the Navajo Nation, we gather up one for each child in our family, including one for the 3 babies we have sent on to heaven.
Then we pick an evening to shop the dollar store. The older kids fill their boxes with things they think they would like to receive. Mom and Dad help the younger ones to fill their boxes and Mom fills the one to represent our heavenly babies. Toys, candy, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, crayons and coloring books. The kids have a lot of fun with it, thinking and dreaming for the children that will receive these gifts.
After purchasing all the loot, we head home to sort it all out, fit it all into the boxes and divide some things that inevitably need divided among the boxes. Tape them shut, wrap them and label them. Then we wait for "Shoebox Sunday" when we will carry them back to church and down the aisle to the front where our 6 boxes will join with hundreds of other boxes to build a wall across the platform. And when you see all those boxes stacked up and you think of each life that will be impacted by the love of Jesus, well, it's awe-inspiring!
And let's not forget 2 very important aspects of this tradition. First, that at some point in the process we pray for the recipients of our boxes, that they will be blessed and that the love of Jesus will change their lives. And secondly, that hearing the report back from the people who deliver the boxes is also a large part of the blessing of this tradition, especially when you hear of Border Patrol Officers that will not allow the boxes to pass into Mexico who suddenly have a change of heart. Or of the moment when the backhoe was needed that moments later one was driving down the road and all the operator asked in return was to visit a doctor on the medical team that accompanied the gifts. Or how the backhoe driver's assistant listened to the team pray for his boss and made a decision to ask Jesus to be his Savior! Now THAT'S what Christmas is all about!