In a world where Christmas is over-commercialized, it is easy to forget the true meaning of the season. Even in the Church, believers can easily do so many activities “about” Christ, there is little time to actually talk to Him. Too often, we give personal time, attention and gifts to everyone, but Jesus. Yet, the focus can change for the better. Rather than simply doing programs about Jesus, believers can draw near to Him in extra prayer and service to others.

In a former pastorate, one of the most powerful services was an annual Sunday dedicated to the “Christmas gift to Jesus.” Starting three weeks before Christmas, each member and family was urged to pray about what gift they would give to Jesus. After all, it is His birthday. A sacrificial gift to missions was one of the most popular ideas. Consequently, that Sunday before Christmas always represented the biggest offering of the year. Amounts given were truly miraculous and sacrificial! When believers seriously pray about the kind of gift Jesus deserves, it is hard not to be generous and sacrificial.

Another part of the Christmas gift specifically related to prayer involves individuals and families setting aside extra time for prayer with the Savior. For many believers, unhurried prayer time is the gift most desired and needed. Even more than mere outward gifts, Jesus wants our hearts. In preparing for personal and family prayer time, two ideas have blessed many.

1. Spend special time thanking God for the priceless gift of Christ’s coming. In this approach, we set aside extra time to thank God for Christ’s birth and mission. Some obvious points for thanksgiving are: eternal life, peace, joy, provision, God’s presence, His unfailing love, families, friends, soldiers guarding our freedom, etc.

It is also important to reflect on the awesome cost to the Father and Son. Rather than a brief, perfunctory prayer of “thanks for coming,” Jesus surely deserves unhurried time in more thoughtful praise and thanks. Such times are great for teaching children that Christmas is about “The Gift,” not just packages under a tree.

2. Set aside individual and family prayer time to ask Jesus what we should give Him for Christmas. One possibility is to consider a sacrificial gift to missions and ministry. After all, Christmas is all about God’s mission to reach the world. Children should also be encouraged to pray about a gift to spread Christ’s message. In addition to monetary gifts, acts of service and praying for missions are powerful.

Another potential gift is a commitment to spend more time in prayer and Scripture. Above all else, the Lord wants our love and obedience. A commitment to closer abiding is of great price to the Savior (John 15:4-8). For most busy believers, additional time in prayer would be first on Jesus’ list.

A final option is to pray about people who need special help or a word of encouragement. Some examples are those who are alone, sick, shut-in or in challenging mission service for the Lord. It is important to encourage children to suggest people to call, visit or serve. Some of the best ideas may well come from them! It is amazing what Jesus brings to mind if we seriously ask. Believers, what better way could we celebrate Christmas than to spend extra time in prayer and service to others? Can Jesus be pleased with extravagant (unneeded) gifts to ourselves while millions are lost and starving? In all our “gift giving,” let’s make Jesus, missions and serving others first on our list.