What to do about the poor is a topic that has been discussed in Christian circles for ages, and I’m not going to solve the world’s problems here. Complaining about the commercialization of Christmas has also been discussed and re-discussed. Enough with the talking! What can we do about it?
First and foremost, ask Jesus how He would like His birthday celebrated! His answer might surprise you. But don’t ask unless you intend to follow through and do what He says.
Just in case He mentions something about re-focusing your holiday efforts, I’d like to suggest a few practices you might incorporate into your Christmas tradition—or even participate in all year. They can at least get us pointed in the right direction.
- Don’t let “stuff” be the focus of Christmas. Set a reasonable budget and stick to it. Let your gifts be thoughtful rather than expensive. Give the gift of yourself—time spent with family and friends, perhaps an outing together. I like to complete my Christmas shopping (or finish hand-made gifts) before Thanksgiving so that I’m not distracted during Advent.
- Make time for reaching out and blessing others. Our small group adopts a needy local family (vetted by our church), usually a single mom and some kids, and provides them with a holiday food basket and Christmas gifts. Or you could dish out meals at a soup kitchen, donate to a toy drive, or ring a bell for the Salvation Army. Can you repair a car, fix a computer, or bake special cookies? If you have a special skill, consider how you can use that to help others.
- Include the poor in your giving. Lots of relief and development organizations, both faith-based and secular, have gift catalogs where you can “give” your loved ones a goat, school supplies, or perhaps counseling for a rescued trafficking victim. If you need someplace to get started, I highly recommend Partners International’s Harvest of Hope catalog. Last year I “received” some chickens and support for an accused “witch” (usually just a widow guilty of nothing more than being old). I like how these gifts are specific, and you can track their impact on the recipients on the catalog website.
This short video illustrates how a goat can transform an entire community!
- Think fair trade. Choose gifts that bless both the receiver and those who produced them. From chocolate to jewelry to scarves to coffee, fair trade items may cost a little more, but you’re not just buying a gift, you’re supporting justice. I’ve been delighted with the items I’ve purchased from Trade as One.
Timbali Crafts, a co-op established by our missionary hosts, sells hand-sewn items produced by the women and older school girls we met in Swaziland. The money they earn goes to provide food, school uniforms and books, and other necessities. I was impressed by the high quality of the items we saw for sale, and had fun spending some of my Christmas budget there.
- If none of these grab your interest, check out the list on Re-Imagining Christmas, by Marla Taviano for ten more ideas.
This short list is just a beginning. What other idea do yo have?
We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can do our part to proclaim the kingdom of God.