How to Make the Invisible Visible at Christmas

Generosity in the context of real relationships

Let’s see a show of hands: How many of us bought gifts for the less fortunate this year? A Christmas shoebox? Or something for our church’s Christmas outreach, local homeless shelter or Angel Tree?

I’m guessing there are a lot of hands up out there. Americans are generous, especially at Christmas.

But consider with me: How many of our gifts were purchased for invisible people—people invisible to us?

Of course, our prayer is that our gifts are helping someone in that ministry develop in-person gospel relationships. And sometimes, charity gift programs do include actual names: Buy a gift for Tom, age 12. He would like a football. Still, the gift buyer will never meet Tom.

What if in addition to charitable gifts, we might give the gift of relationship?

Those “invisible” recipients of our Christmas charitable giving might actually be cleaning our own houses or our workplaces or mowing our lawns. They might be doing our nails or delivering our newspapers. Maybe they are serving us weekly at our local diner. Maybe we’re paying for them to care for our ailing grandmother.

Of course, not everyone who works these jobs is in the category of “less fortunate.” But I would guess that if we look hard enough, all of us, every day, have contact with people who are.

They might look different from us or speak a different language, which makes the barrier between us and them greater than just economics. But I believe that we are heading in the right direction if we prioritize relationships.

Building a relationship starts with talking. Learning from each other. Spending time together. Once such a relationship is built, we may find ways for our generous hearts to do more than give financially.

As just one example, the woman who has helped around my house for nine years* was never able to complete her education. My husband and I decided to pay the school fees for her 10-year-old daughter so that, together, we could help her build a better life for her family.

Her daughter now ranks sixth in her class of 200 students, so I get a glimpse of their better life coming. We rejoice together.

So what about this holiday season? Let’s give generously to our favorite charities. But let’s also look around us. If every established American Christian chose to invest deeply in the life of one immigrant, one refugee or one financially struggling family, think of the very real difference we could make.

Generosity matters, no matter what the form. But when generosity is more about relationships than money or stuff, then everyone has something to give—no matter our financial status.


*In Tanzania it’s commonly expected for anyone who can afford it to give jobs to those in poverty.

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