By Jessica Tomes, TMD Social Media Director

“Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”  Deuteronomy 15:10

What a beautiful promise. In our non-stop society, it is easy to get caught up in the busy hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are presents to buy, meals to prepare, cards to address, and parties to attend. We worry about capturing the perfect Christmas card photo, hanging the ornaments on our trees just so, and how we will pay off our credit card bills come January, after buying too many presents for too many people who probably have more than enough to begin with—somehow we have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with our engaging in any of these activities, but for many, this season which should be a joyous celebration of our Savior’s birth, has somehow become a tireless chore to begrudgingly survive. And that is just plain sad.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Many families will go without the necessary essentials this Christmas. They won’t have a Christmas tree or Christmas presents, they won’t have stockings to stuff, some won’t even have a bed to sleep in or a roof over their heads. Children all over the world will go to bed hungry without dinner on Christmas Eve, and will wake up with parents in prison, wondering if Santa forgot about them. This is even sadder.

If the God of the universe could give His one and only Son in retribution for our dark and ugly sins, what can we give to those in need, “the least of us”, this holiday season? If we could step outside ourselves, and instead of selfishly fulfilling our own desires, we were selfless this Christmas, what difference could we make in the lives of our hurting brothers and sisters in Christ? I think it’s at least worth a try, don’t you?

A friend recently shared a story with me about a relative, a widowed mother of two kids. This mother works very hard and struggles to make ends meet, with no help from government subsidies. She was in the checkout line at the grocery store a few days ago, and a gentleman in line in front of her paid $20 towards her grocery bill. She could not believe that a complete stranger would do something so generous.

God has called us to shine our lights brightly for Him into this dark world. This grocery store anecdote is just one example of a small kindness having a big impact. If we could only take the time to notice, there are opportunities to bless others around us every single day. Would you consider joining me in a campaign to give back to those less fortunate this Christmas, and throughout all of 2014? If so, I truly believe this special season will take on brand new meaning for both the giver and the receiver. Here are a few ideas for sharing our Father’s kindness with our communities this Christmas.

Write a holiday card or letter to our troops overseas, thanking them for their service to our country. Many soldiers and servicemen and women will not be able to return home to spend Christmas with their families. War does not break for Christmas, but I am sure that our brave troops would love to know that we are thinking about, and praying for them this holiday season. Drop off your cards and letters at your local recruiting station.

Donate gifts to Toys for Tots, the Christmas classic sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps. The donated toys and gifts are then given to children in need. You don’t have to absolve your life’s savings to make an impact—this may be the only gift these children receive this Christmas. Donation locations can be found all over town.

Donate gently used shoes to Soles for Souls. The Nashville based charity ships the shoes to those in need worldwide. You can also sponsor a pair online—one dollar equals a pair of shoes.

Make leftovers! If you are already planning to bake or cook for family and friends, double the recipe and deliver the surplus to your local soup kitchen or single neighbor!

Adopt a family for Christmas. There are many community organizations and opportunities to adopt and sponsor a local family this holiday season. The Salvation Army is a great way to go about this, but there are also plenty of local charities looking for help this time of year. Check out their websites for more information.

Donate a cow to a family in need. Make a global impact through donating to Heifer International. Not only does the cow provide milk for the family, but it also encourages self-reliance through livestock training. You can also give the gift of a goat, pig, or sheep. For more information, visit the Heifer International website.

Shop for a cause! Shop with a charitable organization like WORN for Peace or TOMS Shoes when making out your gift list this holiday season. Visit these organizations’ respective websites to read more about the good these businesses are doing.

Create an Advent Giving Calendar with your family. Brainstorm 25 different ways your family can give back together this Christmas and beyond! Could you imagine what would happen if we all committed to performing 25 acts of kindness in 2014?

Donate gifts to Angel Tree. Angel Tree provides Christmas gifts for children whose parents are in prison. These children would likely receive no gifts otherwise. What a wonderful surprise to wake up to on Christmas morning!

Volunteer your time or make a donation to your local homeless shelter. While most of us look forward to the holiday season all year, this can be an especially difficult time for these families. What a wonderful opportunity to share Christ’s love by serving!

Cook and deliver a meal to a family going through a difficult time. You could even ask your church leaders for a suggestion on which family to visit. Invite the family back to your place for dessert and fellowship.

Spread a little Christmas cheer! Gather some friends and “surprise decorate” a family in need’s home for the holidays. Bring a tree and all the trimmings. Bring some Christmas cookies and other treats. Make it a party!

Ask that in lieu of gifts this year, friends and family make a donation in your name to your favorite charity. Make your own charitable donation or two before the end of the year. You could even set a goal for donation, and create a Facebook campaign to get everyone involved.

Obviously this list is not exhaustive. Please feel free to share your ideas for giving back this Christmas with us here at TMD. We would love to hear more about your favorite charities and causes! Will you join us in service of others this Christmas season? Think of all the good we can do if we set the trivial aside, and focus on the heart of Christmas.

The Tomes Family Christmas Photo 2012.

The Tomes Family, Christmas 2012.

Born and raised in Southeast Texas, Jessica currently lives in Billings, Montana with her husband Tyler, and her one year old daughter Savannah. Jessica graduated from Texas Christian University where she studied Broadcast Journalism. (Go Frogs!) A writer, blogger, and fashion enthusiast, Jessica also owns her own business: Jessica Morgan Photography and Events. She loves everything about weddings, and is so excited to have joined the team at Tamara Menges Designs! She is expecting her second baby girl, Emma Kate, in March of 2014.