A few years ago, I saw this video called the Advent Conspiracy – a different way of looking at Christmas –
Then last Thursday, I went to a gathering put on by the Boston Faith and Justice Network (www.bostonfaithjustice.org/) entitled “Just Giving – A reflection on Christian generosity and creative gift ideas.” At this event, a dozen young adults shared about how their understanding of the global poor had affected the way that they practiced Christmas. They shared about the tension between wanting to give generously and find the perfect gift, and yet how purchasing material items can be so consuming during this season.
Since the event, I’ve been thinking about Christmas, about how Jesus gave himself incarnationally to us, and how we can use what He has done to display the true meaning of Christmas. I was inspired by the alternatives they suggested in being intentional in the way our Christian values affect our purchasing during Christmas time:
Give the gift of clean water –
Did you know that lack of clean water kills more people per day than anything else? Ryan Scott McDonnell shared about how one church small group decided that rather than to purchase presents, they were going to contribute money to non-profit organizations. After researching, they pooled their money and decided to contribute over $100,000 to two organizations, including Living Water International, which builds wells throughout the world to give people access to clean water.
Make something homemade –
The unique thing about homemade gifts is that not only are you giving a gift, but you are showing the person how much you care by giving your time and talents to create the gift. Some cool homemade gifts that were shared at the gathering include:
-ornaments made out of bike parts (a gear shifter makes a great cross!)
-Writing a song or poem and giving a CD recording
-Making a youtube card of a video sharing why that person is special to you
-Homemade canned jam or other treats – I’m making homemade chocolate truffles and cards for people this year
Give the gift of your talents –
On Christmas Eve last year, instead of exchanging gifts, Julie’s family did a talent show together – including a magic show, poems, rapping, and even a Spanish lesson. Julie shared how Christmas can be a turbulent time for her family, but doing the talent show together was able to bring them together as never before. Although she was skeptical of the talent show idea at first, now they can’t stop talking about surprises that they will share with one another this year!
Give the gift of a new life –
My Grandma's Christmas present to me last year was Moises, a young boy from Bolivia
Last year, my grandma gave me the gift of a sponsoring Moises through Compassion International. Moises is a young boy in Bolivia – we pray for him and write him cards periodicaly throughout the year. It’s so cool to know that together we’re helping Moises to receive proper food, clothing and an education.
Give recycled gifts –
I’ve recently found a new love for thrift store shopping. Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s fun to search through the randomness for the perfect gift. A new thrift store opened up just a short walk from my house called Boomerangs, and all of their proceeds go to AIDS Action Committee – so not only are you finding a cool gift, but you’re helping to end AIDS worldwide! At the event, someone made a whole bar set using only items they found from a thrift store. Also be sure to check out Freecycle, a website where people are giving away stuff they don’t need and people looking for items – all for free!
Give your time –
At the beginning of December, my friend Megan’s Pastor Larry Ward always gives a sermon entitled “It’s not your birthday anyways!,” explaining about how Christmas should be focused on giving ourselves to one another, just as Christ came to give himself to us. On Christmas morning, everyone in her church (Abundant Life Church in Cambridge) goes to the Salvation Army to relieve the staff to spend time with their families. Then, they pass out presents and serve the guests in the Salvation Army a large warm Christmas meal. I love the idea of engaging in community service on Christmas Day, having the day focused on serving others rather than ourselves.
Christmas in Boston - In the background is Park Street Church on the right and the Boston State House on the left
Christmas in Boston is quite beautiful! Check out this picture of the Boston lighted Christmas tree downtown. I love my city!
Yes, Christmas isn’t about us – it’s not our birthday anyways. The question is – this Christmas, how can you give yourself relationally to friends and family and loved ones?
What can you do to give more presence rather than more presents?
How can you use what God has given you to bless the world?