BY LIZ BYERS
Our first Christmas as a married couple, I was obsessed with making it perfect. “This is the year we have to start amazing traditions,” I would often tell my husband. Apparently, I thought that in 20 years it was important to be able to say, “We’ve been doing this since we first got married.” The pressure was on. We had to decorate the tree while drinking hot chocolate, watch our favorite Christmas movies (by the light of the tree, of course), find the perfect treat for Christmas morning, and curate sweet and thoughtful stockings for each other. The stockings were a non-negotiable for me, even though they created extra stress and turned into a disaster. I wandered around Target for an hour trying to find small gifts that were fun, but not too expensive for my husband who didn’t actually care about receiving stocking stuffers. And in all the holiday craziness, I didn’t even buy actual stockings. I mean if it wasn’t heirloom quality, what was the point? So come Christmas day, I wrapped a bunch of candy for my husband in a random blanket and handed it to him. He wasn’t too impressed.
Now I’m trying to focus our Christmas traditions on things that invest in our family and our community. After all, doesn’t Christmas represent the hope of Jesus and his mission to rescue this broken world? I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to embody Christ’s hope and light to those around us. Here are a few suggestions to do just that in our community by serving with our partners. Grab your family, friends or small group and pick one!
1. Wheeler Center for Women and Children - December 17. Join us to care for and have fun with the women and children staying at Wheeler’s women’s shelter. We play games, serve snacks, work on crafts and provide a place for them to rest and laugh. This is a great place to serve with children.
2. Wheeler Men’s Mission - December 9. Help us on December 9 to welcome our friends from the Wheeler Men’s Shelter to Grace to attend service and share a meal together. Roles range from driving to greeting to preparing a meal item. Or join us for the honor of serving the men their dinner on Sundays at Wheeler Shelter. We are there every Sunday – even Christmas Eve!
3. Shepherd Community Center Christmas Festival and Store - December 16 & 20. Help our partner bring the joy of Christmas to their neighborhood families by caring for them at the Christmas Festival or volunteering at the Christmas store where parents can shop for their children.
4. Circle City Relief - Sundays. Bring some Christmas cheer to 34th Street by handing out food, hot drinks, and children’s books and praying with those Circle City Relief serves. Learn more & signup here.
5. Host an International Student for a Meal. There are over 2,500 international students at IUPUI this year. Over the Christmas holidays, they will often end up alone in their dorm rooms with no place to go. You can help change that by hosting students for a Christmas meal with your family. What may seem minor by having them over for a few hours will be a lasting memory they won't forget. Our missionary partners Keith and Natalie Back will connect you with a student they serve.
6. Whiz Kids Tutoring. Empower youth, build relationships and transform lives by spending one-on-one time tutoring or mentoring a student at Shepherd Community Center each week. All it takes is an hour each week to make a huge difference in a child’s life!
7. Go on a Short-Term Mission Trip Consider how you can encounter God in a new way by serving one of our global partners. Check out our upcoming mission trips here.
8. Pray for Our Missionaries. We have 11 partners who serve as full-time missionaries locally and around the world. Pray for their families and ministries this Christmas season. Bonus Activity! After praying, send an e-mail or card to let them know you prayed for them. They would love to hear from you. Learn more about our missionary partners here.
9. Care for a Neighbor or Friend. Most of us know someone in our lives going through a difficult time. Christmas is a great time to reach out to them. Send a hand-written note, offer to provide a meal or invite them over for hot chocolate!
10. Don’t have time to serve outside the weekend services? Check out some great opportunities to serve at Grace.
Learn more about all of our partners and missionaries here.
May you experience the hope and love of Jesus this season and find ways to share that joy with others!