As you decorate your home, think of ways to further His kingdom on Earth.

This past weekend wasn’t just Thanksgiving.  It was also the first Sunday in Advent.

I’ll be the first to admit it – Christmas and Advent are my favorite time of year.  I love Christmas trees and cookies, ornaments and lights, music and cheer.

But I also love the introspection that comes with Advent.

Advent means beginning. In this case, the beginning of God’s time on Earth. We are preparing for His arrival.

And in a sense we do that with our Christmas celebrations – we prepare for the arrival of that precious Babe. We set up manger scenes. We gather together gifts for the children in our lives. We bring out our Advent calendars. We remember the Christ child and his family when we give to those who have been turned away by our own society, whose lives are difficult. It is a time of giving. We give to food pantries and shelters.

But to truly prepare for the coming of the Lord, we need to go deeper. What can we do to impact the lives of these people – the neglected? The poor? Because once they eat that meal at the shelter, its done and gone. How can we impact their lives on a day-to-day basis?

Here are just a few suggestions. If your own checking account is near empty, not to worry. You can help without writing a check.

Donate to an organization that helps people feed themselves long term. My family’s favorite is The Heifer Project.

Donate to an organization that helps people find long term or permanent housing. We donate to Habitat.

Write a letter to your state or federal congress people requesting increased health care, including mental health care, for the poor. Many of our homeless are mentally ill, people who no longer have a place to find help with recent budget cuts.

Do you know someone without extended family in your area? Invite them to dinner. And not just Christmas dinner. Invite them over after church one Sunday before Christmas.

Clean out your coat closet. Many of us have an outgrown coat from one of our children. Donate that to a coat crib so that another child can be warm.

Reach out to those around you who need help. When you do, you are preparing your heart for His coming.