When I was a little girl I always looked forward to Christmas. Most children do, of course. But aside from the usual traditions, I specifically looked forward to a game we played called Advent Angels. Little did I know that, in this family adored game, my parents were teaching me Biblical principles that would stick with me all my life. And now, I have passed the game (and hopefully the lessons) down to my children.
The game itself is simple. Each member of the family gets their name written down on a slip of paper and tossed into a hat. Then, the hat is passed around with each person drawing one name. There are only a few rules. One rule is that no one can choose his or her own name. If that happens, all slips of paper go back into the hat and the drawing begins again.
After the names are chosen in secret, the slips of paper are thrown away. Each person who did the drawing is now an Advent Angel. They are responsible for remembering the name they chose and then doing daily kind things for that person. The next rule is that an Advent Angel never gives away whose “angel” he or she is, and does all of their acts of kindness in secret.
We usually draw names about a week before Christmas. This household has difficulty keeping secrets from one another any longer than that. So for a week before Christmas, I may find my bed made before I have a chance to do it, my herbal tea chosen and placed lovingly in my teacup all ready to steep, or even a handmade card or chocolate candies placed on my pillow at night. I do the same types of things for the family member I chose.
What other things have Advent Angels in this household done?
- laid out jammies on the bed at night
- written an encouraging message on a dresser mirror (in mysterious handwriting, of course)
- turned down the covers at night
- laid stickers, bookmarks, or other simple gifts on a pillow
- picked up after the receiver if they’ve left a mess
- cleared or washed dishes after a snack or meal (without being noticed)
- set out a favorite mug or cereal bowl in the morning
- turned on an electric blanket to warm the receiver’s bed
The game is simple; the lessons run deep.
Giving versus receiving… selflessness…giving for the joy of giving…
I see many attempts this time of year to get children’s behavior to improve. Reminders of who may be watching, or what will be waiting for them on Christmas morning can certainly have their own short-lived benefit. And at the same time, I know that truly good behavior must come from the heart. If one tries to be good just for the sake of receiving, however, the goodness may not be long-lasting, nor the lesson internalized.
I’m so thankful for my parents who used a little Christmastime game to teach my siblings and I that the joy of giving has it’s own rewards. Selfless giving is a joy! It feels good to give (even very small things) and expect nothing in return. This is what Jesus demonstrated and taught.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, that author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” ( See Heb 12:1,2 NASB)
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good…” (Luke 6:45a NASB)
“”Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31 NASB)
What sorts of things do you do this time of year to shift your focus (or your family’s focus) from receiving to selfless, Christlike giving?