Here we are again…December! Our Turkey leftovers have finally disappeared and we are busy preparing for Christmas. Children are sitting on Santa’s knee and making lists, parents are busy making decisions on which toys their children really do ‘need’ this year, and among the busy malls, Christmas Card writing, and baking, we all seem to be searching for that PERFECT PRESENT for our special someone!
Times seem to be changing more and more each year as we approach Christmas. Gift Cards are the easy ‘go to’ gift for many. Many opt to purchase one ‘big/expensive’ item instead of small personal (and often not expensive) gifts. Even children seem to be losing the tradition of gifts made ‘from the heart’ at school, as many attend ‘school gift stores’ to purchase something for their parents.
The Gift Guess Activity / Game!
When I was in elementary school, I had a friend whose parents both worked. Her mom, being a busy working mother, was very prepared and had all her gifts purchased, wrapped, and under the tree by Thanksgiving. My friend and her brother could not wait until school let out for Christmas Break so that they could unwrap all the gifts (Carefully!) and see what they were going to get. Then, they would carefully re-wrap them before their parents got home from work. I never understood this…I was the girl who never picked up or shook her gift to try to guess what it was. I know, not many of us around, but I genuinely loved the surprise on Christmas morning. But, I am rare. Most kids love to pick up their gifts, shake them and try to guess at what is inside!!! Well, that is how my Christmas Youth Group meeting begins…
What You’ll Need
A Christmas Tree (We put one up in our youth room every year)
- 10 wrapped gifts with only a number on them (see below for my gift suggestions/ideas)
- Copies of a ‘Gift Guess’ Answer sheet (my version is attached below) & a pen for each teen
- A copy of “The Precious Present” story
GIFT GUESS DOCUMENT- Christmas Gift Guess
Jenn’s Wrapped Gift suggestions/ideas
I make sure to get different size boxes and different wrapping paper and bows to make it more interesting. Some of the gifts I wrap without boxes to throw them off as well. Basically, you want them to NOT be able to guess what is inside. The more confused they are, the more fun the activity is. (: Below are all things I have used in the past.
A New Package of Socks in the plastic packaging, A Rosary, Scotch Tape in the Dispenser, Six Boxes of Playing Cards taped together, Plastic Easter Eggs (loose in a box), Reindeer Antlers (a headband purchased in the dollar store…they have jingle bells on them), A Bible, Paper Clips (loose in a box), A box of Dominoes, Pencils, A Box of Crayons, A Christmas Wreath in a box, Hungry Hippos Game (I have a travel size one which is much smaller than the original), Jenga blocks, A Candy Bar, or any other crazy items you can find.
Once the gifts are wrapped (I usually stick with 10 items), put a post it note on each with it’s number. Don’t forget to number each as you are wrapping so you don’t forget what is in each package! Then, put all ten gifts with their post it note numbers attached, under the tree.
How to Play the Gift Guess Game
Once your teens arrive and you’re ready to begin, ask them how many can usually guess what they are getting before christmas. Ask them if they think they are good at guessing what gifts they will receive. Challenge them to play your Gift Guess game- Then, explain the rules. They can pick up, shake, sniff, listen to, etc. each gift. They CAN NOT unrwap, help friends guess, share answers, or damage any of the gifts or wrapping. Give them about 10 minutes to get all their answers down.
Once everyone is finished, go around the room number by number to see what everyone has guessed. Usually, you will get a few with the same answers/guesses. Sometimes, you get some really crazy and creative answers. If you have anyone who has guessed correctly, don’t say anything to them yet…wait until each gift is opened. Once everyone has revealed their answers, choose one student to open each gift and reveal what is inside. If anyone had guessed correctly, award them with a prize. (I usually use food…a candy cane, chocolate, etc.)
Begin a Discussion About Gifts
Here are a few good questions to get your discussion going…
- What is at the top of your Christmas list this year?
- What are you hoping you won’t get?
- What is the best gift you have ever received? Why?
- What is the most precious/special/meaningful gift you have ever received? Why?
- What is the best gift you have ever given? Why?
- Are you a ‘gift card person’ or a ‘thought and creativity person?’
- Are the most expensive gifts the best? Why or Why not?
- Is it better to give or receive?
- If Jesus could give us a gift for Christmas, what would it be?
- If you could give Jesus a gift for Christmas, what would it be?
Once you have discussed these questions, begin to read “The Precious Present” story to them.
“The Precious Present”
By: Spencer JohnsonOnce there was a boy…who listened to an old man. And, thus, he began to learn about The Precious Present. “It is a present because it is a gift,” the contented man explained. “And, it is precious because anyone who receives such a present is happy forever.” “Wow!” the little boy exclaimed. “I hope someone gives me The Precious Present. Maybe I’ll get it for Christmas.” The boy ran off to play. And the old man smiled. He liked to watch the little boy play. He saw the smile on the youngster’s face and heard him laughing as he swung from a nearby tree. The boy was happy. And, it was a joy to see. The old man also liked to watch the boy work. He even rose early on Saturday mornings to watch the little laborer mow the lawn across the street. The boy actually whistled while he worked. The little child was happy no matter what he was doing. It was, indeed, a joy to behold. When he thought about what the old man had said, the boy thought he understood. He knew about presents. Like the bicycle he got for his birthday and the gifts he found under the tree on Christmas morning. But, as the boy thought more about it, he knew…the joy of toys never lasts forever. “What then,” he wondered, “is The Precious Present? What could possibly make me happy forever?” He found it difficult to even imagine the answer. And so he returned to ask the old man. “Is the present a magical ring? One that I might put on my finger and make all my wishes come true?” “No,” the old man said. “The Precious Present has nothing to do with wishing.” As the boy grew older, he continued to wonder. He went to the old man. “Is The Precious Present a flying carpet?” he inquired. “One that I could get on and go any place that I like?” “No,” the man quietly replied. “When you have The Precious Present, you will be perfectly content to be where you are.”
The boy was becoming a young man now, and felt a bit foolish for asking. But, he was uncomfortable. He began to see that he was not achieving what he wanted. “Is The Precious Present,” he slowly ventured, “a sunken treasure? Perhaps rare gold coins buried by pirates long ago?” “No, young man,” the old man told him. “It is not. The richness is rare, indeed, but the wealth of the Present comes only from itelsef.” The young man thought for a moment. Then he became annoyed. “You told me,” the young man said, “that anyone who receives such a present would be happy forever. I never got such a gift as a child.” “I’m afraid you don’t understand,” the old man responded. “You already know what The Preciuos Present is. You already know where to find it. And you already know how it can make you happy. You knew it best when you were a small child. You simply have forgotten.” The young man went away to think. But, as time passed, he became frustrated and finally angry. He eventually confronted the old man. “If you want me to be happy,” the young man shouted, “why don’t you just tell me what The Precious Present is?” “And where to find it?” the old man volleyed. “Yes, excatly,” the young man demanded. “I would like to,” the old man began. “But I do not have such power. No one does. Only you have the power to make yourself happy. Only you. The Precious Present isn’t something that someone gives you. It is a gift that you give yourself.” The young man was confused, but determined. He resolved to find The Precious Present himself. And so he packed his bags. He left where he was and went elsewhere to look for The Precious Present. After many frustrating years, the man grew tired of looking for The Precious Present. He had read all of the latest books. He had looked in The Wall Street Journal. He had looked in the mirror. And, into the faces of other people. He had wanted so much to find The Precious Present. He had gone to extraordinary lengths. He had looked for it at the tops of mountains and in cold dark caves. He had searched for it in dense humid jungles and underneath the seas. But, it was all to no avail. His stressful search had exhausted him. He even became ill occasionally, but he did not know why. The man returned wearliy to the old man’s side. The old man was happy to see him. They often laughed out loud together. The young man liked to be with the old man. He felt happy in his presence. He guessed that this was because the old man felt happy with himself. It wasn’t that the old man’s life was so trouble-free. In fact, there was no apparent reason why he was so much happier and healthier than most people were. But, happy he was. And so were those who spent time with him. “Why does it fell so good to be with him?” the young man wondered. “Why?” He left wondering. After man years, the once young man returned to inquire further. He was now very unhappy and often ill. He needed to talk with the old man. But, the old man had grown very, very old. And, all too soon, he spoke no more. The wise voice could no longer be heard. The man was alone. At first, he was saddened by the loss of his old friend. And, then he became frightened. Very frightened. He was afraid he would never learn how to be happy. Until, finally he accepted what had always been true. He was the only one who could find his own happiness. The unhappy man recalled what the happy old man had told him so many years ago. But, as hard as he tried, he could not figure it out; he tried to understand what he had heard: THE PRESENT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WISHING…WHEN YOU HAVE THE PRESENT YOU WILL BE PERFECTLY CONTENT TO BE WHERE YOU ARE…THE RICHNESS OF THE PRESENT COMES FROM ITS OWN SOURCE…THE PRESENT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE GIVES YOU…IT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU GIVE TO YOURSELF… The unhappy man was now tired of looking for The Precious Present. He raised both hands triumphantly into the cool, fresh air. He was joyous-for one moment. But then, just as quickly as he had discovered it, he let the joy of the present moment evaporate. He slowly lowered his hands, touched his forehead, and frowned. The man was unhappy-again. “Why,” he asked himslef, “didn’t I see the obvious long ago? Why have I missed so many precious moments? Why has it taken me so long to live in the present?” As the man remembered his fruitless travels around the world in his search for The Precious Presnet, he knew how much happiness he had lost. He had not experienced what each special time and place had to offer. He had missed a great deal, and he felt sad. The man continued to berate himself. And, then he saw what he was doing. He observed that he was trapped by his guilt about his past. When he became aware of his unhappiness and of his being in the past, he returned to the present moment. And he was happy. But, then the man began to worry about the future. “Will I,” he asked, “be able to know the joy of living in the Precious Present tomorrow?” Then, he saw he was living in the future and laughed – at himself. He listened to what he now knew and heard the wisdom of his own voice. “It is wise for me to think about the past and learn from it, but it is not wise for me to BE in the past, for that is how I lose myself. I lose what is precious to me.” It was so simple. And, now he saw it. The present nourished him. But, the man knew it was not going to be easy. Learning to be in the present was a process he was going to have to do over and over, again and again, until it became a part of him. Now he knew why he enjoyed being with the old man. The old man was totally present when he was with the younger man. The old man was not thinking about something else or wishing that he was somewhere else. He was fully present. And, it felt good to be with such a person. The younger man smiled at himself, the way the old man used to smile. He knew, “I can choose to be happy now, or I can try to be happy when…or if…” The man chose NOW! And now the man was happy. He felt at peace with himself. He agreed to savor each moment in his life…The apparently good and the apparently bad…even if he didn’t understand. For the first time in his life, it didn’t matter. He accepted each of his precious moments on this planet as a gift. “I know that some people choose to receive The Precious Present when they are young, others in middle age, and some when they are old. Some people, sadly, never do. I can choose to receive The Precious Present whenever I want.” As the man sat thinking, he felt fortunate. He was whom he was, where he was. And now he knew! He would always be whom he was, where he was. He listented again to his thoughts. “The present is what it is. It is valuable. Even if I do not know why. It is already just the way it is supposed to be. When I see the present, accept the present, and experience the present, I am well and I am happy. Pain is simply the difference between what is, and what I want it to be. “When I feel guilty over my imperfect past, or I am anxious over my unknown future, I do not live in the present. I experience pain. I make myself ill. And, I am unhappy. My past was the present and my future WILL BE the present. The present moment is the only reality I ever experience. As long as I continue to stay in the present, I am happy forever, because forever is always the present. The present is simply who I am, just the way I am, right now. And, it is precious. I am precious. I AM THE PRECIOUS PRESENT!” It was as though he could hear the old man talking. And then he smiled. And his smile widened, and he laughed. He felt great joy. He knew he was listening, not to the old man…but to himself. It felt good for him to be with himself – just the way he was. He felt he knew enough. He felt he had enough. He felt he was enough. Now. HE HAD FINALLY FOUND THE PRECIOUS PRESENT, AND HE WAS COMPLETELY HAPPY! Several decades later, the man had grown into a happy, prosperous, and healthy old man. One day, a little girl came to talk to him. She liked to listen to the old man. It was fun to be with him. There was something special about him, but she didn’t know what it was. One day, the little girl began to really listen to the old man. Somehow she sensed somthing important in his calm voice. He seemed very happy. The little girl couldn’t understand why. “How could someone so old,” she wondered, “be so happy?” She asked the old man. He told her why – then all of a sudden, the little girl jumped up and squealed with delight! As the girl ran off to play, the old man smiled. For, he heard what she had said; “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I hope someday someone gives me The Precious Present!”
As you complete the story, ask your teens how many of them think they truly live in the present. So many of us worry about the future, or like to ‘re-live’ the past. But, many of us miss our present moments. Especially in this high-tech world! Most of my teens don’t even talk to eachother on the phone or even in person. They text, they tweet, the are totally ‘plugged in’ at all times to phones and ipods and computers. Here are a few thoughts to start the final discussion…
- How does God want us to be present in our own lives?
- How do we miss opportunities to be present?
- How can we try harder to truly live in the present?
- This Christmas Season, how can we receive The Precious Present and share it with others?