Last Christmas, the magical spark never came. I was bothered by all the commercialism that plagues our city months in advance. Somewhere between the flashy ads in magazines and feeling I didn’t have much to offer Jesus due to the limitations of our circumstances, I lost my enthusiasm. I wasn’t looking forward to decorating the tree, neither did I want the guilt and stress that would come from cramming and rushing to “make things meaningful.”

This year has been the opposite, though. In fact, we started preparing in July! So what was different?

Back then, the children and I came up with a plan to give Jesus 1,001 presents by His birthday, and we’ve been sending a few more His way every day since. The back of our kitchen door is covered with lists and charts, and now there are several hundred checkmarks and stickers indicating the gifts we’ve already given Him! There’s a chart for good deeds done to help others. There’s a chart for memorizing Bible verses. There’s a chart for making simple Bible story audios to post for other children. There’s a chart for writing letters to cheer the hearts of friends. There’s a chart for the times we have stopped to spend time with Jesus. These are just a few of the gifts we’re giving Jesus for Christmas.

This year, our Christmas season started months ago and it feels great. There’s no rush, no pressure, no guilt, and no lack of focus. We’re reaching our goals and using our time to make Him and others happy. The charts are nearly filled up, and when they are, we’ll place each list in a gift-wrapped box and place it under the tree. They are gifts from the heart—each one represents time, love, and effort we know He will be happy to receive.

We already know what the 1,001st gift will be—a simple birthday candle. We’ll light it for a moment each day while we pray for others around the world to come to know Jesus’ love. These prayers are also gifts we can offer the One who offered us His all.