About this time every year postal workers in New York City begin opening thousands of letters that kids have written and mailed to Santa Claus through the USPS. The project is called Operation Santa Claus, and its goal is to match children in need with surrogate Santa’s who can help give an underprivileged child a Merry Christmas. While we’re not endorsing Operation Santa, or asking you to participate in the project, we do want to pass on some information on the trends that its participants are reporting this year.
In a recent radio interview, Gary Smiley, a New York Paramedic who has picked up letters from the NYC Post Office and given gifts to their writers for 18 years, said that he has seen kids Christmas wishes change this year, “It has kind of shifted a lot from toys to more clothing and necessities. They really just need the basics in life. They don’t want a race car they want a coat, or a pair of pants or a nice outfit they can wear to school as opposed to a doll or something.”
What can we take from this as Children’s Ministry workers? We need to be acutely aware that, while Christmas is a joyous time for many of the families in our churches, many others are struggling at home financially, emotionally and relationally during this current time of economic recession, and many of the kids in our programs may be facing slim Christmases.
What can you do? If your church doesn’t already have a means of matching children in need with others who can provide them with gifts, food and clothing this season, you can start one! There’s still plenty of time to create your own Christ-centered Christmas “Operation” to help the kids in your class. This also gives us a unique opportunity to teach our kids that the real gift of Christmas isn't one that comes wrapped in colored paper, but one that came wrapped in swaddling clothes. If New Yorkers can “bless” children and their families in the name of Santa, how much more so should we bless the families in our churches and communities in the name of Jesus, and remind them that He alone is the real reason for the Season, and Hero of the Holiday.