Be a “Secret Santa” for Jesus all year long!

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 25:34-40, NIV)

Why not give the gift of surprise love this year, maybe to someone you don’t know?  That’s what Jesus did when He came from Heaven to help us.  Of course, He knew us, but we didn’t know Him!  He surprised us with love–a love that paid for our sins and gave us the chance to live in His joyful Kingdom for eternity.  Now that is the best Secret Santa gift ever!

Show the love of Christ this year to someone who might have never understood His love or who might be discouraged and about to give up.  Ask Jesus to lay on your heart the people He wants you to reach.

Loving people for Jesus is a holiday event –it’s a holiday that lasts forever!  Jesus’ birth is a gift that never ends for those who love Him.  No matter what time of year, you can give Christmas out to everyone.  You can even be a “Secret Santa” (following in the footsteps of the Giving Christ) all year long.  Here are just a few ideas for starters.  (In each category, the easiest ideas are at the top of the list, and the most challenging at the bottom.)

In the Footsteps of the Giving Christ: Secret Santa Gift Ideas

Foster and Children’s Homes

–Stuff a stocking with small toys and hygiene supplies for children in your local foster care system or children’s home.  You can call ahead and ask what they really need.

–Offer to host a small appreciation for the staff at a children’s home.  You can bring something simple, like bagels, cookies, donuts, or muffins.  (It’s a good idea to not bring home-baked goods without checking first.)  You can bring orange juice and milk.

Hot Wheels Toys R Us

Hot Wheels 20 car pack, available at Toys R Us

–Ask to sponsor a particular foster child, or child in a children’s home, for Christmas.  You can ask for a wishlist or surprise them!  If you are ever in doubt of what to buy a child, there is usually a representative in a toy store who can help point you in the direction of popular toys for a boy or girl.  You can also go online and check out gift suggestions at the Toys R Us online store.

–Ask to sponsor a foster family for Christmas.  Honor the foster parents’ commitment to sponsoring children with a surprise gift!  Your gift to them could be as simple a a couple gift cards to nearby restaurants, or maybe a trip to a massage parlor for the foster mom and a sports store for the foster dad!

–Each year, there is such a great need for quality foster homes.  If you feel called to be a foster parent, why not act on that calling?  Choosing to be a foster parent is taking a step to protect children from nearly unimaginable living circumstances.  The system is broken, and fostering is difficult, but if God is leading you in this direction . . why not act?  🙂

Soldiers and Veterans

Handwarmers Walmart

Grabber Handwarmers 40-pack available through Walmart

–Sponsor a soldier this year.  Items like hard candy, beef jerky, batteries, socks, and hygiene items that are so easy to come by here can be a big privilege to an overseas soldier.  Other ideas are instant hand warmers, notepads, pens & pencils, Fig Newtons, instant drink mixes, coffee, granola bars, mints, cough drops, Nerf footballs, dominoes, board games, and more.  For a list of great ideas, click here.  Add a letter or card with your favorite verse and a few words of encouragement.  If you don’t know anyone who has a relative oversees, you can check with a local church or military office.

–Visit a Veteran’s club or hospital.  Bring a simple gift item, like candy cane sticks and chocolate bars, tied together with a ribbon.  Be sure to check beforehand for good gift items and a good time to come.

–Call a Veteran’s hospital and ask to sponsor a Veteran for Christmas.  Ask for a wishlist, or surprise him/her with special gifts.  Be sure to wrap them to make it feel like “Christmas”!

–You can sponsor a soldier for 6 months or a year and give a gift of time, encouragement, and compassion.  Contact your local church or a military base for more information.

Nursing and Retirement Homes, Senior Centers

–Spend a few hours in a nursing home handing out small gifts and, best of all, giving the gift of time and love.  Call ahead of time to make arrangements with the nursing home.  Bring a small handmade gift or inexpensive Christmas ornaments.

–Some seniors at senior centers sell items to raise money.  While the handmade item they are selling may look outdated, it would more than likely mean a great deal to them for you to buy what they make, more than just donating to the center.  (One year, my mother bought rather meager-looking homemade teddy bears from a senior center for my classroom at school.  I wasn’t too enthusiastic about giving them to the kids, but they were delighted.  Children often don’t receive handmade gifts, and can be thrilled to receive something made with love!)

–Go with a church group and sing or host a party for residents at a nursing or retirement home.

Chenille gloves, Walmart

Chenille women’s gloves (inexpensive and very cozy!) at your local Walmart

–Ask to sponsor a resident at a nursing home who doesn’t have many visitors.  Bring a care basket of items like a flannel blanket, hygiene supplies, fuzzy socks, chenille gloves for women or leather gloves for men, a book of beautiful photographs, a Christmas decoration or small Christmas tree with ornaments, store-bought cookies (if this is acceptable), a comfortable pillow (like a TempurPedic), etc.  Put a bow on the basket or gift package to share Christmas cheer with an elderly person who may not have had cheer in a long time.  Some residents are so poor that they may desperately need underwear, socks, or a new outfit.  These items are not necessarily adequately provided for by the government as many people think.

Sponsor a Child or Children

–Pack a “shoebox” (usually a plastic box) for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.  Stuff your box with goodies like:

  • hygiene items (hair brush, nice comb, toothbrushes, toothpaste, full-size bar soap)
  • art supplies (Crayola crayons and colored pencils, Ticonderoga pencils, a metal pencil sharpener from an art shop–I recommend quality over stuff-that-breaks-down-quickly)
  • fun toys like a modestly dressed Barbie (this can be difficult to find, you can get a Disney Cinderella doll instead), stuffed animal or small baby doll with an extra outfit, Slinky, My Little Pony, Squinkies, Etch-a-Sketch, play recorder, or Nerf football/ball.

Fill in gaps with packs of unopened gum packages, bracelets or necklaces, hair ties or clippies (on trimmed-down cardboard packaging), lip balm, a crayon box, stickers, or a boxes of floss (you can cut around the packaging to leave it “encased” in plastic but without the extra unnecessary wrapping).

–Give a one-time gift to a reputable organization that shares the love of Christ and basic needs with a child.  At Compassion International, you can give money to help unsponsored children, highly vulnerable children, education needs, medical needs, disaster relief, etc.

–Find a child to sponsor.  This is usually a long-term commitment, depending on the age of the child you sponsor and the age of graduation from the program.  You can sponsor a child through Compassion International for $38 a month.  You will be able to write letters, send money for a birthday gift, and might even be able to visit your child on a mission trip!

Help an Expectant Mom and Her Baby

BPA free EvenFlo bottles, BabiesRUs

BPA free Evenflo bottles from Babies R Us (boy colors)

–Stock up on diapers–for your local pregnancy care center!  Pregnancy care centers help expecting mothers in poverty and at-risk circumstances.  Buy baby clothes, bottles, and toys to bless an expecting or new mother.  Contact your local care center to find out more.  You can locate your local pregnancy care center by typing your zip in here.

–If you have been pregnant recently, you may have a lot of maternity clothes and/or baby toys & items left over.  If you are not planning on having more children, why not donate these items to your local pregnancy care center?  Even if you have a “surprise” child later on, the gifts you gave away will be blessing a mother in need!

–Why not make a goal that every month when you go to the grocery store or Wal-Mart, you will buy 1 pack of diapers for your local pregnancy care center?  You’ll be helping out year-round, but not have to spend a large amount of money at once!

You can support the Baan Huey Nam Kao Church Child Survival Program in Thailand or other survival programs through Compassion International

–Give money to help infants and expectant moms through trustworthy organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International.  For example, you can feed a hungry baby or nursing mother for a week through Samaritan’s purse.  Or, you can help an expectant mother receive prenatal care through Compassion International.

–At your next birthday party, host a “baby bash”.  Instead of having friends and family buy gifts for you, have them buy gifts for a baby!  Then, donate these wonderful items to your local pregnancy center.  (This idea comes from a young girl in my area who decided she would ask for baby shower items for her birthday to help out our pregnancy care center!)

–Get your small church group involved in sponsoring a baby shower for a woman in crisis.  Contact your local pregnancy care center for more information on how to sponsor a shower.  Your small group can become involved providing a special memory through a cake, balloons, and baby gifts for a mommy-to-be.

–Volunteer your time a few hours a week at your local pregnancy care center.  The range of jobs may include answering phones, helping to plan fundraising events, or even mentoring women to help them see the positive, wonderful futures they can have in Christ!

–Get your small group involved in a cleaning/repair day at your local pregnancy care center.  This will greatly help your center and save them money!

Women’s Shelters


Crabtree & Evelyn Citron, Honey, and Coriander Soap

–Bring ornaments or hygiene items to a local women’s shelter.  You can bring special pampering items like lip balm, hand lotion, and floral soap.  Since children are often brought to homeless shelters with their mothers, you can bring inexpensive toys for all the children from a bulk-toy company such as Oriental Trading Company.  This store often runs free shipping promotions if you buy a certain dollar amount.

–Host a birthday party or Christmas party for the children at a local women’s shelter.  Call your shelter to see how they would most like you to help.

–Volunteer your time at a local women’s shelter.  Just imagine what even a few hours a week could do!

–Get your small group involved in a cleaning/repair day at your local women’s shelter.  Fresh paint and a deep-cleaning can make an older building look much more inviting!


–Ask a local high-poverty school if there is a child or family you can sponsor for Christmas.  (If you sponsor a child, make sure to ask if there are brothers/sisters to surprise with gifts, too!)

Crayola Crayons 96 pack

Crayola Crayons 96 pack, Toys R Us

–Volunteer for a “party in a box” for a classroom at a high-poverty school.  You can provide party favors (like Christmas pencils), snacks, books for the students, and maybe even a simple craft for the children to do at their winter party.  (The concept for “Party in a Box” was started a year or two ago, I believe in my city.)

–Volunteer a few hours a week at a local Good News Club.  Contact your church for more information.  You can give snacks, a safe environment, and, best of all, the Good News of Christ to children in a school in your area.

–Volunteer to tutor a child at a local school once or twice a week (or less often).  Bring a child small treats during tutoring or a Happy Meal for lunch, and you could be their hero!  Contact your local school for more information.  (Remember to check for the school’s policy on bringing outside food.)  If you do commit to tutoring a child, try to follow-through the whole school year so the child won’t be greatly disappointed.  Your visits may matter far more than you realize.

Help a Sick Child

Emergency Medicine, Samaritan's Purse

Help provide emergency medicine for 50 critically ill people, Samaritan’s Purse

–Donate to Samaritan’s Purse to help pay for a child’s heart surgery, transform the life of a disabled child, or support a whole community by helping pay for a missionary doctor.

–Sponsor a child at a local hospital for a Christmas present or surprise present.  Be sure to check with the hospital beforehand as to what you can bring (you may not be able to wrap gifts) and if you can sponsor a particular child for Christmas.

–Bring gifts for an entire children’s wing at the hospital.  Check for permission beforehand and ideas of what to bring.

A gift of small teddy bears, a Hot Wheels, an Etch-a-Sketch, a Barbie, or bouncy balls could make a child’s day.

Plush animal finger puppets, Oriental Trading Company

Animal finger puppets, available through Oriental Trading Company

But how is it feasible to get gifts for so many children?  Check at garage sales for new (with tags) Beanie Babies.  Sometimes you can get clearance toys or discount toys at local stores.  Be ready to buy in bulk when you shop!  Dollar stores may have coloring books for very cheap (I’d recommend sticking with Crayola crayons, though).  Art supplies (like Crayola crayons) are often on sale right before school starts.

Another resource is Oriental Trading Company.  You can buy small gifts like plush animals, jewelry, beach balls, stickers, etc. for much less cost than buying each item individually.

Inmates at Prisons and Juvenile Detention Centers

A note: How interesting that in Jesus’ prophesy of the praise that believers would receive for their work in this life, one of the four groups (the poor, strangers, the sick, and prisoners) is the prisoners (see Matthew 25:34-36).  Are we “too good” to help prisoners?  If we think we are, then we must think we are too good to help Jesus, because Jesus says we are helping Him when we help prisoners know His Truth (see Matthew 25:40).

–Sponsor the children of prisoners through Angel Tree (a branch of Chuck Colson’s prison ministry).  Angel Tree gives presents to children on behalf of their incarcerated parent.  What a beautiful picture of what Christ does for us!  Just as He gives us gifts to give others than really come from Him, we can help imprisoned parents give gifts to their children that they might have no means of giving without our help.

–Bring a gift for inmates at a local prison.  Check to see what items are acceptable to bring/what items are most needed/wanted.

–If you are interested in volunteering time at a prison in your community, contact your local church and check into Chuck Colson’s prison ministry.


–Write Christmas cards for the neighbors in your subdivision this year.  If this is too overwhelming, then pick just the neighbors who live on your cul-de-sac or close by.

–If you are the Etsy/Pinterest type, you can make something small for your neighbors.  If you are like me and others would be more likely to feel pity for you than happiness over what you made, you can give chocolate bars, small bags of candy from a gourmet candy store, small Christmas ornaments, or items that other people made on Etsy.  🙂

Beaded Message Bracelets

Beaded message bracelets from Rahab’s Rope help women escape or avoid sex trafficking.

–Give a few neighbors a special gift that also helps people in developing countries, such as many gifts from Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry (shop by country) or Rahab’s Rope (support women as they escape or avoid sex trafficking).

Friends and Family

–Choose a friend or family member to buy or make a surprise, “over the top” gift for this year–something they can remember for years to come.  The gift could be a special keepsake that you’re ready to give away, too.

–Most of us know relatives and/or friends who are going through a really tough time this Christmas.  The need can be overwhelming.  Choose one person each day to pray for, and maybe send them a quick card in the mail or a simple email to let them know you’re thinking of them.  The gift of caring can mean more to them than gifts under their tree.

Compassion Card

Dayspring Compassion card

[You can buy small gift items for those in other countries–for example, milk for a child for a week for $4 and receive a card through Samaritan’s Purse–just think, if you buy Christmas cards for $2 each you are paying only twice as much to have a card and help a child!  Or,  you can buy Dayspring cards that help sponsor Compassion International (6% of net wholesale).]

Mathew 28-20

Matthew 28:20

–Give a Scripture necklace or key chain to someone you love.  You can choose whatever Scripture verse you wish at This Word Is For You on Etsy.