I apologized for bringing up Christmas in the September issue of Community News. I now take it back. Costco had its Christmas merchandise out just a couple of days after the article appeared. And just today, September 21, 2009, there was an article in the Los Angles Times encouraging consumers to do their part in restarting our beleaguered economy; economists are placing our future market success on…Christmas shopping.
In last month’s article, I put out the challenge to have us tithe on our Christmas spending. While 10% isn’t all that much, it really does add up. And what to do with that savings? Give it away! There is nothing more freeing from the bondage of money than to give it away. Advent Conspiracy has focused their giving toward addressing the need for clean water in our world by digging wells and providing education via an organization called Living Water. Check out their website (www.water.cc) for great stories about how they are changing people’s lives with a simple gift of water. Seeing other people’s changed lives has a way of softening my heart.
So what are we going to give (or get) this Christmas if we are not shopping? Two years ago, I received one of the best gifts ever from my mother-in-law. It was my birthday and I was prepared for the regular shirt/book/coffee mug type of gift that in-laws typically give to sons-in-law. I have quite a collection of these in my closet and eventually they all migrate on to the thrift store. But this year it was different. I opened the box with its predictable “son-in-law” card and, as expected, there was a shirt. Nothing too terribly special in and of the shirt itself, but it was the story behind it all that made this special to me. She was volunteering at her local thrift store, saw the shirt and thought of me. She knows of our family decision to be more “downwardly mobile.” She doesn’t quite understand the entire process, but knows that it is important to us. So, she bought me the shirt for my birthday. She didn’t add apologies for giving me a used gift, nor offer any extra gifts trying to make it add up to a “real” gift. Just the $2.50 shirt with about 90% of the surfers and palm trees printed upside down. What struck me most was that she had changed her view of gifting enough to feel comfortable giving me something used. Somehow, I had communicated that I was “okay” with this type of gift. We always say, “it’s the thought that counts,” and in this case, it really is the thought that counts.
Thus, instead of spending lots of cash on presents this holiday season, how about preparing ourselves to be more thoughtful in our gifting? Or, for that matter, our receiving? What do you already have that you can give away? How can you support some other good work in our community by buying used items as gifts? What can you do to communicate to friends and family that it really is the thought in gifting that matters, not the dollar amount? How can you make it easier for others to give gifts to you that really don’t add up to much economically? What kinds of gifts would make Jesus happy to see given and received as Christmas presents?
Next month, I will give ideas as to how we might spend our time during the holidays. Let’s take back Christmas. Join the Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.org).