And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35 NLT
Because Christmas has become so commercialized, we’ve often resorted to drawing names or creating other ways of blessing each other during the season. One of these ways is an exchange. The exchange takes on many forms, but almost always involves a bunch of family members or a group of friends or colleagues. Here are five ideas:
• A cookie exchange where everyone brings one type of cookie, then allows others to graze their stash. Everyone leaves with a variety of cookies. This can be loose (a free for all) or highly structured with elaborately decorated bags of six cookies. Homemade candy is also welcomed.
• An ornament exchange where folks bring a pretty (or ugly!) ornament, wrap it, then exchange it using the white elephant method. (Give everyone a number. In order, folks can steal another person’s ornament or open a wrapped one. Usually limit steals to two or three times when an item’s dead).
• A true white elephant exchange where you dig through your closets and garage and find something awful or hideous, wrap it beautifully, and hope you don’t receive something gaudy in return. These can have themes: music (oh the 80s madness!), Christmas décor, eveningwear, movies (VHS anyone?), art. The crazier, the better.
• Time exchange. Why not host a casual party where you play Christmas music in the background, offer some goodies, and hang out with each other while you address Christmas cards. One person could be the stamper, another an addresser, still another the envelope stuffer. You could also work on the packages you need to mail.
• Meal exchange. Gather a group of friends (who are good cooks!) and spend two hours together in the kitchen creating a main dish, enough for each person to have one. Purchase throwaway containers at a local dollar store to make this easier. Everyone makes one dish in several containers, then leaves with that many different main dishes.
In light of all these exchanges, it’s important we recognize the most important exchange of all. Jesus in His deity exchanged heaven’s beauty for earth’s soil. Consider the humility it must’ve taken Him to do this very thing, to not only exchange ethereal for earthly, but glory for death. Paul alerts us to this in Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT): “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
This exchange Jesus did for our sake, so we could live and breathe and love well on this earth. As you participate in activities where you exchange gifts or food or time, remember that Jesus came to earth to exchange His life for yours.
Jesus, I don’t understand the exchange You offered on my behalf. Not fully. But I do understand the joy I receive when I give to others. That must be how You felt when You came to earth to give us Yourself. Help me remember that beautiful exchange this holiday when I exchange gifts. Amen.
A grace idea: If you’re rushed this Christmas time and feel too overwhelmed to plan an exchange, give yourself permission to be casual. Simply invite four friends over to bake alongside you. Each brings a recipe, some ingredients, and a smile. Crank up the Christmas tunes and enjoy the laughter.
Q4u: What exchange has been your favorite?