Gifts to give to Jesus this Christmas

by Jim on December 11, 2012


Ministry Encouragement Podcast – Episode #024

“Gifts to give to Jesus this Christmas” by Rev. Jim W. Hollis


Hello and welcome to Episode #24 of the Ministry Encouragement Podcast.  I’m Rev. Jim W. Hollis, the Executive Director of Proactive Ministries – the ministry that sponsors this podcast.  I am honored and delighted to have you allow me to share in your life through this Podcast today.

Today I want to focus on the fact that Christmas is not our birthday, but as we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ.  Yet, if you turn on any radio or television station we are bombarded with “Buy, buy, buy for yourself – you deserve it,” or “It costs a bit more, but you’re worth it.”

We are therefore in danger of truly missing the entire focus on the celebration of Christmas.  While I know that you and I have lived plenty long enough and understand enough to be able to fight off this incredible misrepresentation of Christmas – our children and grandchildren are another story.  There’s a real concern that we faithfully, lovingly and passionately share with them the true reason of the season of Christmas.

Some families will take a chunk of “prime-time” on the day or evening of Christmas Eve and actually read the biblical account of Mary, Elizabeth, David and the birth of Christ.  This is about as clear as you can get.  Others will watch one of the videos that tell the story with characters and scenes – another neat tool which may hold the interest of our TV-saturated younger generations.

All that is fine, but not what I want to get to today.  I want to focus on what to give to Jesus Christ this Christmas as gifts to him that will bless him, honor him and cause a huge smile to cross his glorious face.  No, no – these gifts will not be Godiva chocolates, a new Bass Boat, or the latest Wii console.  They will not be so much about “stuff” which we gravitate toward so quickly with the media’s bombardment on “buy, buy, buy!”  and “Bigger, best and most!”

Before I get too far with this, let’s focus.  Let’s consider carefully about what Jesus actually told us long ago through the Bible about both how and what we can give to him that he will love and cherish.  Here’s the text for this:

Matthew 25:40

New Century Version (NCV)

40 “Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’

Think about it like this – we all have members of our family who are very hard to buy gifts for.  They have so many things and don’t need anything that we could give them as we think hard about solutions.  What do we do in a situation like that?  We give a gift to someone or a mission they truly love and in doing so, we honor them and bring them great joy!

So today, who could we love specifically and intentionally in a way that would clearly honor Jesus Christ as we celebrate his birthday?  He has just told us in the text above from Matthew 25:40, that anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.  Is there some part of this we don’t understand?  Is it not clear enough in our minds?  How will we get at doing this for Christmas?   Let me offer three specific ways we can give an amazing gift to Jesus this year:

Two specific ways we can give Jesus an amazing gift this Christmas: 

1) Give Jesus a gift that involves initiation of a new friendship and risk in giving to someone among the least (those often overlooked): 

  • This will be someone we don’t know – a stranger
  • They will be in a high stress place where hardly anyone would value their name or give a rip about their personal story
  • They may feel trapped in their circumstance, caught in a deadly whirlpool
  • For someone they don’t know to care enough to really see them, ask them their name, meet a need they have and invite them to sit and share some of their story would bring a Christmas to their lives like none in a long, long time.

How would we find someone like this?  Who would they be in our area? Choose a ministry strategy option below and give the gift to Jesus:

Ministry Strategy Option 1:

  • Make a list of one or two short order, not-a-place-to-go-on-date-night restaurants in  your area where it’s hard to be part of the wait staff.  (Waffle House, Huddle House, Local breakfast spots, where it’s easy to see the pain on the faces and the tiredness in the steps of servers.
  • Drive there with a way to make notes. Your group or team should be no more than 3 of you.   This is an information gathering trip.  Be seated at a booth, notice who your wait staff person is by name, call them by name and ask them how their day is going.  Listen.  Give them your order.  As they come back to check on you, ask them how long they have worked here and what things they are looking forward to this Christmas.  Listen.  Pray with your eyes open.  Get their story and as they flit away to the next customer, write the story notes down.
  • As they return with your food orders and place them on the table, they will often say, “Can I get you all anything else right now?”  Answer by their name, “Yes, Sarah – there is one other thing.  We are Christians and are going to bless this food.  As we do, is there anything we could lift for you in prayers today?”  Listen.  IF it’s not busy, you may pray with them right there.  If they’re busy let them go and then pray.  And please, make notes on all this so you will remember the details of giving Jesus this gift.
  • Before you leave, ask your waiter or waitress another question, using their name, “Sarah, I liked the __________ today and we appreciate your serving us.  What’s it like to work here?  Is there anyone else here you would like for us to remember in prayers?  Anyone going through an unusually hard time right now?”  Make the notes before you get up and leave.
  • Make certain your tip reflects your caring for your server.  And commending him or her to the Manager would be a real blessing as well on your way out.
  • Go home.  Review the notes with those in your group. What did you learn?  What can you discern from this visit?  How can you go back there, sit at this person’s table and continue to build a new friendship in Christ with them?  If they mentioned a child or a grandchild then plan to follow up on that.  Be lovingly creative here.  What can be a “next step” for you and those in your outreach group to do next with this new friend?  Set a date for a next visit.

Ministry Strategy Option 2:

  • Think of a local box store in your area such as Walmart or Kmart.  They will be open late during Christmas season.  That’s great because this will be a “later night ministry mission.”  The middle afternoon time can work well also – the point here is to not go when it’s really crowded at the check out lines.
  • On the day you choose to go, pray with those in your group (ideally 2 or 3 of you together, please).  Head to your box store.  Walk the front aisle between the check out registers and the mass of merchandise.  Make mental notes of the various cashiers present.  Discern which one your group feels led to get in line with when you get ready to check out with a personal purchase.
  • Get your item(s) and hang back until your cashier’s line is clear.  Then proceed to check out.  Immediately make mental notes: 1) What is their name on their badge?; 2) Ask them how their day is going using their name;  3) Listen carefully to their reply; and then 4) Ask them what they are looking forward to most this Christmas season in their family.  Relax and don’t give any vibes of being in a hurry to get out of the store.  As they tell you some of their story, reflect back to them a major point or two what they shared.
  • Say something like, “Wow.  This is a great time of year.  Sometimes I have to celebrate it with a great candy bar!  What’s your favorite candy bar to recommend if YOU were celebrating with one?”  They will tell you.  Buy two of those bars and give one of them to the Cashier with a thankful response.   You may say, “Bill, it’s nice to meet you here today and I hope you have a great rest of your shift here.  See you again when we come in.”
  • If there is more than one of you, be sure to make introductions and and let them know you are together.  In that case, you can buy three of the recommended candy bars and give your ministry friend one as well.  It spreads good cheer!
  • When you get back out to your car, make the notes you need to capture: What store, what date, time, and the name of your new friend.  Summarize what you learned from them and any major points they shared with you and your friend(s).  Plan the next trip to this same store and plan to build on your first visit by calling them by name and asking about some of the people, hopes, concerns or things they indicated they are looking forward to.
  • If you discern that their hope is a simple one, like getting a turkey for Christmas with their family, you and your group may want to follow up on that and get them one – that they would pick out later as you present them with a gift card to their favorite grocery store.
  • Plan to follow up with your new friend.  In time, after several friendly visits, they may well ask you why you and your friends are so kind to someone you never knew before.  At that point you can invite them for a cup of coffee, breakfast out and share with them your personal testimony of how Christ has changed your life.

Please note – in ALL the above ministry strategies what is NOT happening that often does and sometimes ends up turning someone OFF:

  • There is no mention of church and no “church commercials” in the sharing
  • There are absolutely no confrontational comments or questions with the person we are becoming a new friend with
  • We are disciplined in avoiding “churchy or preachy language” with our new friend.  We keep things upbeat and should they share something heavy with us in their story, we offer to pray for them related to that need.  For example, we would  not say, “Bill, you just need to turn it over to the Lord and leave it at the Cross.”  Because this is frustrating chatter to someone who is not versed in religious cliches and their meanings.  Keep it simple and clear.
  • Above all other things we will love the other person unconditionally with the authentic love of Christ, requiring nothing in return from them toward us.  We are the initiators of the new friendship.  And as we minister to them, we are giving Christ a special birthday gift of loving others.


2) Give Jesus a gift of our employing Divine Love and Thanksgiving to bless another person’s life, give them powerful affirmation and hope that their best days are still ahead:

Ministry Strategy Option 1:

  • Enter an attitude of private prayer and spiritual discernment.  Thank God for two Sunday School, Bible Group leaders, or Youth Leaders that changed your life in a powerful way for Christ.  As you reflect on who comes to mind, narrow your list to those who are still alive.
  • Write a letter to them and tell them, in detail, HOW God used what they did in ministry to truly change your life forever.  Recall and recount experiences, conversations, spiritual events or services, or other ways they blessed you in detail.
  • Make a plan of how you could make a personal visit to this person God used to bless your life so powerfully.  Ideally, in person with them would be best.  But if they live hundreds of miles away how about a Skype video or Yahoo Video call – set up by their kids or grand kids, of course…
  • As you have your visit with them, read them your letter and give them a copy of it, hand-written.  Ask them if you can take a picture with them and introduce them to your spouse, children or a grandchild who will be with you for this special visit.
  • Close with a prayer and thank God for their life, their witness and all they have meant to so many others.
  • You will have given Jesus a major gift of blessing in doing this option and changed another life of a person who may have come to believe the best days of their life were behind them rather than in the future.

It’s my prayer that this Christmas we will truly prioritize giving at least one awesome gift to Christ.  He has given us everything good and loves us with a love that will never end.

We continue to build Christian Community around our Ministry Encouragement Podcast.  You are a vital part of this building.  In the coming days I am so excited to share with you that we will be doing both GoToMeeting get togethers and Webinars on line starting in December.  This has already begun in some preliminary yet powerful ways.

For example, I have met on Facebook a wonderful brother in Christ who is a minister in Uganda.  We have often exchanged “visits” on instant messages and sent emails back and forth.  Today, we shared in an online, video meeting in which Rev. Jim Burt, one of our senior Clergy Staff and I shared with brother Richard in Uganda about a teaching on Blind Bartimaeus.  I was in VA, Jim was at our offices in GA, and Richard was in Uganda.  It was powerful and blessed all our lives.

We have already had some Webinars that we call, “A Spiritual Lift During Your Day” as well as some in the evenings.  These are more casual and we are typically covering some key texts with spiritual themes related to everyone needing encouragement in ministry.

One of our biggest visions for this new resource is to provide excellent, in depth ministry training and coaching for small congregations across North America.  Tens of thousands of these congregations are in severe and steady decline.  The truth is that with quality ministry guidance over time, they can begin to see a great reversal in their decline both spiritually and numerically.  If you are part of one of these churches or you know someone who is, please have them get in touch with me for new options through which their church can begin to grow!  Call me at our Atlanta area offices at (770) 803-9988.

I hope as you prayerfully consider living out one or more of the Ministry Strategy Options in today’s podcast – really working it to give an incredible gift to Jesus Christ – I hope you will email me or call me and let me know how these worked for you.  I look forward to hearing how God used us to make a difference in the lives of others around us that will last forever.

Until next week, live courageously in the power of the Holy Spirit, the richness of Christ’s Love and the eternal strength that is ours from God.  I love you all.  Now, GO and make a difference in this world!

In Christ’s Grace,

Rev. Jim W. Hollis



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