While we have been seeing Christmas advertisements for weeks, the Christmas season has officially begun with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. I mention these shopping days because the focus of Christmas for most Americans, as you are well aware, has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth. Society’s focus is about retail, and retail in a big way.

I do not intend to curse the darkness that shrouds Christmas these days; it is what it is. We can buy into the materialism or bring a modicum of restraint to our approach to the season—the choice is ours. What I would like to do is offer some helpful ideas to keep the joy in Christmas and a sense of peace in the midst of the retail storm. It won’t be simple, but it can be done.

Lead your family to give your largest priced gift to honor the One whose birthday we Christians celebrate on Christmas. Make your celebration a family affair. Bring your children alongside you in the next few days and ask them to pray with you in regard to the gift you will give to Jesus. You might even ask them to consider getting less so you can give more.

There are several places where these gifts can be given to honor Jesus. I would suggest that one of the best places to give during the holidays is to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering through your local church. By giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, you can augment the support your church gives to international missionaries through the Cooperative Program. Your Christmas gift will help tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and soon return in places where the Gospel is scarce.

Another way to give is to help people in need. Most churches ask their members to help provide Christmas food baskets for families in need. Let your children go to the grocery store or go through your food pantry with you as you prepare to give. There are many avenues of helping people during this time of year, one such avenue is Angel Tree. Let your children be a part of picking the toy or the gift to give. Use this time of year to teach your children that Christmas is more about giving than receiving.

Contact a nursing home near you and ask if there are any residents who have no family. Let your children make cards and small gifts to bring them. Take the time to visit and let your children share their love with the elderly and give the gifts. Joy will fill your children’s hearts as they see the difference such small acts of kindness can mean to someone who is lonely. There are probably some people in your church or down the street who would benefit from such kindness. Again, help your children to realize Christmas is about giving not receiving.

Give some creative thought as to how you can get your family engaged in serving and giving to others in honor of the Christ of Christmas. Grandparents, you can come alongside your children and grandchildren to help relieve some of the time pressure.

Yes, I know, these acts of kindness and love will take time, which is exactly what you don’t have in the hustle and bustle of modern life. Yet, a well spent hour or two is worth more than you can imagine to the people you bless. Greater still is the teaching opportunity you have to demonstrate tremendous lessons of the Christian faith to your family.

As always, you will act to bless and, in the end, you and your family will be blessed. When you fall into your chair on Christmas night, exhausted, and watch your children play with the box that popular toy came in, you will experience more joy over your acts of kindness than anything else done at Christmastime.