Archives: Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? #6
Guidelines for Alternative Giving
"My peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled."
This Christmas we all would like to have the peace of Christ, the ability to give as Jesus gave, and hearts that are not troubled. These hopes are what's at the heart of alternative giving!
My peace I give to you: In our consumer society it's easy to forget that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birth. With so much emphasis on giving and receiving presents, Christ's gift of peace to us can get lost or forgotten. This year,
- Experience the peace of Christ: Schedule a period of time each day during Advent to be alone and to pray and study the Scriptures. Allow God to prepare you for the coming of the Prince of Peace.
- Share the peace of Christ: We can give a birthday gift to Jesus. Read Matthew 25:31-40. Jesus insists giving to him means giving to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick and the imprisoned. Consider pledging 25% of what you normally spend on Christmas gifts to organizations that serve those in need. See page 7 for ideas of such groups. Pledge to volunteer your time in a community program through the coming year.
I do not give to you as the world gives: After the Christmas season, many people find themselves deep in debt, having spent hundreds of dollars for presents they cannot really afford. Cultural pressures, trying to meet expectations, or perhaps simply a desire to be loved can be powerful motivations to spend beyond our means. Before you begin your Christmas shopping, consider the following:
- Take control of your spending: Read 2 Corinthians 9:5-7. God loves a "cheerful giver," but the text also says "give as you have made up your mind...not under compulsion." Don't buy anything you can't pay for this December.
- Use the Plan Your Gift Giving Guide (on page 6): Don't look at catalogues or go window shopping for gift ideas. Instead, begin by thinking about the person to whom you want to give. What message would you like your gift to communicate? The best gifts are ones that share our time and talents; ones that truly express the love and commitment we have made to family, friends and our community.
- Consider the messages gifts bring: The gifts we share say something about the values we hold dear. Advertisers, for example, would have us believe that violent games and toy guns make ideal Christmas gifts. But what do games associated with war and killing have to do with celebrating the coming of the Prince of Peace?
Do not let your hearts be troubled: Give to yourself. Before the Christmas rush begins and the course of events begins to control you, consider ways you can bring comfort to your troubled heart.
- Reflect: Think about your past Christmas celebrations. What is it about Christmas and gift giving that you found frustrating or troubling? Make a list. Give your conscience time to be heard!
- Share: Discuss your feelings with household members or friends. See if you can find other people in your church or community who want to change their giving habits.
In short, your Christmas giving can be a way of experiencing the peace of Christ and sharing that peace with your friends, your family and your community.
Below are sample questions (and responses for a sample person) that you can use as you plan your Christmas gift for a particular person.
Who is this person to me? -- My sister-in-law.
How well do I know her?-- Pretty well, not in an everyday way. We can talk deeply when we see each other.
How much a part of each others' lives are we? -- We see each other once or twice a year.
What's important to her? -- Writing, reading, bicycles, her family and community, neighborhood activism, personal self-awareness.
What does she like? -- New York City (where she lives), socializing, clothes, movies, cooking, sewing and other handcrafts, writing, doing special things for her husband and baby.
What's going on in her life now and in the last year? -- Her first baby. An ongoing writing class. Balancing free-lance writing and childcare needs.
How do I see God working in her life right now? -- Reconciliation with birth family through the baby.
What are various roles in her life? -- Part-time worker, freelance writer, wife, mom, neighborhood activist.
Could she use special support in any of these roles? -- Freelance writer, mom roles. Dealing with the isolation of motherhood.
What are her "growing edges"? -- Learning a new perspective on her self-involvement. Learning about the "mom" role.
What could facilitate some activity of her life? -- Childcare. Short things to read.
What interests or activities do we share? -- Balancing work and motherhood. Reading and writing. Handwork.
What do I admire about her? -- Her sense of humor and playfulness, acts of caring for her husband, her fitness, her personal organization.
What values do I want to express? -- Support, connection, simplicity, world consciousness.
What would give me pleasure to find for her? -- Book, a special event of some kind, something about exploring NYC, jewelry, picture frame or photo album, something creative.
What could say to her, "Through your living I see that certain values are important to you. I want to support and celebrate that in you."? -- Gifts connected to her interests. I could support her sense of community and fondness for socializing and also address her isolation by calling her once a month.
Are there gifts from alternative sources that I could consider for this person? -- Jewelry and scarves from third world producers, food products.
Let intuition and imagination do some work: brainstorm ideas. How could I make her a gift of my time? talent or skill? money? What can I get that's appropriate for the amount I can spend? -- Dave Barry book, subscription to literary magazine (short pieces easily read by busy mom), money for her writing class, offer to layout a neighborhood flyer for her on my computer and fax it to her, donation to the literacy group she used to volunteer for, commitment to a year of phone calls once a month.
- How could any of these gifts foster God's work in her life?
- Are any of these ideas a gift to God as well?
- What do each of these gift ideas communicate about my understanding of myself and the world?
- Where can I find such an item? Who would know where I could find it?
- Could I make it?
- Does a meaningful gift have to cost a lot?
- If it's too expensive for me alone, can I organize others to go in on it with me?
- Can I purchase it from a locally owned store rather than from a chain? Can I get a used one?
- How do prices compare between driving to get it, wrapping and shipping it myself and having it shipped from a catalogue company?
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