From the newest technical gadget to toys and clothes, the Christmas holidays are naturally associated in our culture with both giving and receiving. Of course, as Christians we understand the real "eternal" meaning goes much deeper and the greatest gift ever was Christ Himself.

This is why the Christmas season provides a natural bridge to show Christ's love in creative and effective ways. Here are eight suggestions.

Considering that gas is such a needed commodity, provide a "gas-buy-down" through a local station. Simply get permission from the owner and for two hours on a Saturday afternoon, supplement $.25 off every gallon of gas that is sold (set a limit of twenty gallons per car). For instance, if a gallon of regular is $2.00, the advertised price would be $1.75 for the two hours. Church members serve the community by pumping gas and washing windshields — no strings attached.

Secure a local photographer and advertise to the community for a free family Christmas portrait. The community makes appointments through the church and every family will receive a free eight-by-ten photograph. The community can follow up with the photographer if they desire more pictures. Simply place the free picture into a nice frame and personally deliver the "gift" to each family along with baked goods and information about the church.

Go to a local mall or shopping center and set up a "Free Gift Wrapping" station. This has been especially effective in ministering to both shoppers and store owners.

One church printed up over one thousand cards that stated: "We genuinely want to brighten your day by demonstrating Christ's love in a practical way. We hope you enjoy this gift!" On the back was basic congregational information. Church members were challenged to give out the cards as they randomly bought someone a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a meal at a restaurant, or paid for the car behind them at a McDonalds drive-thru, etc.

Host an in-home It's a Wonderful Life party. Provide a feast! Show the movie, and then afterward, in a non-threatening way, use the theme of "LIFE" to create a climate to share one's testimony with those who attend. Go to GotLife.org for a simple LIFE Gospel presentation.

In the same manner, host a "Birthday Party for Jesus." The difference here is that the children are encouraged to invite their friends as if it were any other birthday party. In this atmosphere, the children do the sharing as they celebrate Christ's birthday.

For both Christmas and New Years, be sensitive to neighbors, schoolmates, and others who are without family in the area. Also, be sensitive to people who have faced recent life changes like divorce or death of a family member. The holidays can be a time of great depression. Go out of your way to include these families into your holiday plans. Purchase a small gift for each person and invite them over to watch football or share a meal.

A final suggestion for the New Year is to start off right by leading a community prayerwalk seeking out community prayer needs. You can even supplement this by taking "Prayer Plants" door to door. The plants will be a continual reminder of your concern and can be secured at a minimal price through any greenhouse or nursery.

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  • Toby Frost and David Wheeler