Some years ago, I started an annual holiday tradition that involves just two people—Jesus and me.
At the core of the Gospel is John 3:16: God gives… And because He gives, we long to give back. King David prayed, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14). So I’ve developed a give-back tradition—I simply ask Jesus: “What do You want for Christmas?” I ask and wait, usually over the course of a few days. I’m aware to the nudge of His spirit and listening to the whisper of His voice. Then I write or draw what I sense him leading me to start, put aside, or focus on. I tuck it into a small box, and place it somewhere I’ll see regularly throughout the following year.
There’s nothing magical about doing this at Christmastime. But the holiday season lends itself to open-heartedness and the thoughtful consideration of “another year gone by.” So, it’s a good time to be more deliberate than usual.
The intent is to “give” Jesus something specific for the entire following year. Tangible or intangible, it doesn’t matter. And you can encourage your teenagers to do the same—their “gift” can be anything that has to do with their character or areas of intellectual, spiritual, or emotional maturity. It could be a focus on mental or physical discipline. It could also connect to how they value their time, money, or relationships. This is a great time to teach them about fasting; abstaining from a simple pleasure or something more substantive. Plain and practical, obvious or unseen by anyone but God, the gift may cost pride, time, or convenience.
A key question is: What if you knew Jesus would change you from the inside out based on the gift you give Him?
Here again, David is my go-to inspiration. I share his story when I present this gift-giving idea to students. To signal his repentance for sin, David builds an altar to the Lord (2 Samuel 24:18-24). When Araunah the Jebusite offers to give him the threshing floor for this dedicated gift, David responds: “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
A key question is: What if you knew Jesus would change you from the inside out based on the gift you give Him?Click to tweet
After you’ve shared this idea with your teenagers, invite them to choose a box you’ve supplied. Have them plant somewhere in the room or at a table, near a pile of supplies they can use to decorate or personalize their gift-box. Give them 15 minutes to listen and then create a box that will remind them of their gift. In the background, play music conducive to reflection and prayer. The important thing is to make it personal—between them and Jesus.
Examples of things you or your teenagers can give to Jesus, or give up for Him, for the year:
- Media that feeds unhealthy thoughts or sucks up a lot of your time.
- A relationship that makes it hard to honor God and respect yourself—cut down the time you spend with that person.
- Going without a simple pleasure (sugar, caffeine, music, TV show, game, and so on) to remind yourself to “drink” the living water Jesus offers us.
- A habit that destroys you inside or out.
- Move away from “profane speech” to Jesus-honoring talk.
- Increase your time and attention on Jesus alone.
- Make changes to the way you manage your money, or commit to giving a certain percentage to a God-honoring cause.
- Move away from negative or sinful thought patterns.
- Consider the way you treat others and commit to relating in a spirit of generosity and integrity.
- Focus on a particular character trait—honesty, authenticity, humility, purity, kindness, or self-discipline.
Want to try this Christmas activity? Click here to download instructions!