Last week at Brentwood Methodist Church www.bumc.net
the sermon was on the topic of getting ready for Christmas. The Scripture reading from Luke 3 emphasized the need for giving at Christmas as part of understanding the gift of Christ. Such sacrifice is far beyond the understanding of young children, but it is never too early to impart an expectation of giving.
Ages two, three, and four years are especially "me" focused, as children are figuring out who they are and their place in the family dynamic. But they do understand what matters to them--their toys, their TV shows, and their favorite foods are second only to their people. Without going into all the details, it is possible to explain to very young children that some people do not have the things they enjoy, and that it is good for those who do have those things to share with those who don't.
My own daughter was so inspired by this sermon that she asked to go to Target and get a couple of toys to donate to the Last Minute Christmas Store at 61st Avenue Methodist Church in Nashville, which allows selected families to "shop" for items for children for free. http://www.lastminutetoystore.com/?pg=give
She had money for this purchase because of an allowance system promoted by Dave Ramsey, author of many books on personal finance and host of the Financial Peace syndicated radio show.
When she gets her allowance, she receives $3 to spend (which we let her spend on pretty much anything, giving her the opportunity to discover good uses for her money, like buying a pack of cool pencils to share at school, vs. not so good uses, such as a $3 lollipop that never gets finished), $1 to save for something in the future, and $1 to give. After four months of hoarding her "give" money, she was able to pick out a couple of Barbies for a child who otherwise would not be getting a doll for Christmas.
Last Monday we also took advantage of an opportunity to give a donation of food to Second Harvest Food Bank in exchange for free admission to the Frist Center for Visual Arts.
This offer is good for the remaining Mondays in December. It was a great opportunity to have her go through the pantry, bag up her favorite foods, and then see the incredible Egyptian exhibit, complete with a real live (well, not exactly "live"...) mummy and a gorgeous exhibit of religious paintings from the 15th century called "A Divine Light" on loan from Bob Jones University.
No matter where you live, there are many opportunities to teach the giving spirit of Christmas. And as you teach your children to give, you give them the gift of generosity.