My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A child is excited for Christmas and all the toys he will receive. Weeks before Christmas, the boy notices a special sparkly box. His parents do not tell him what is in it. As Christmas approaches, the family performs various acts of kindness. Finally, on Christmas day, the boy is allowed to open the sparkle box. In it are slips of paper detailing those kind acts, and the mother explains, “these are our gifts to Jesus.”
The central message: God delights in our gifts to others, and counts them as gifts to Him. In other words, “as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”
Do I recommend this book?
Yes, with certain qualifications. I believe the message is a good one, but must be taught in the context of the full gospel. (We are sinners, saved by grace through Christ, who then learn to give in joyful response to God’s love first received.)
How it could go wrong:
In the book, Jesus is not mentioned until the very end, and then, He is the one receiving the gifts given by the family. If this book is the entire lesson a child receives about Jesus, they will be taught that He is simply someone who expects sacrifice from us, not the One Who made His very life a sacrifice for us.
Further, there is a danger in making lists of good works. If not done carefully, it could lead to self-righteousness, one upmanship, comparing, and all kinds of other problems. Good works ought not to be recorded as if we are trying to keep score.
That said, I do not think either of these errors are intrinsic to the book if it is taught in the proper, Christ-centered context.
Why I like this book:
When the Christmas season comes, I always find myself longing to fight materialism and encourage generosity in my children. And often when I try to do this, I find the children become swept away in the joy of giving, and often, their generosity exceeds my own. I rejoice deeply in this-- this work of God in my children-- and I believe God does as well.
The things I do and teach as a mother help define the word “good” for my children. The sparkle box activity is an excellent opportunity to spell out what is good, what generosity looks like. It encourages the children to see themselves as God’s hands of mercy to the people around them.
My children do not know this, but I have started adding to our own sparkle box. (A cute little box comes with the purchase of this book!) I’ve noted how one child gave sacrificially to a friend in need, and how another simply let his sister have the last piece of garlic bread. I’m watching for acts of kindness both inside and outside this house, and I am getting excited to share these insights with my children.
In this home, the weeks before Christmas will be focused on Jesus: He comes, He seeks, He finds, He dies, He rises, He loves, He protects us. We will bask in His gifts to us and practice receiving His daily help and encouragement in His Word. We will learn and relearn of the new life He has given us, and the ways He helps us overcome sin and love and serve those around us. We will pray that He uses our hands to be a blessing to others, and to glorify Him.
And finally, we will open the sparkle box, and we will rejoice.
In Christ and through Christ, God blesses the works of our hands, our small and imperfect works, and He delights in those works. And (grace upon grace!) He delights in us.
Praise be to Jesus!
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Do you have a favorite Christmas book for children?
What do you think of the sparkle box idea?