A Simple Christmas

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A Simple Christmas

Guidelines for Alternative Giving

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A Simple Christmas - Guidelines for Alternative Giving


Giving is at the heart of Christmas! We remember God's great gift by giving to others. However, due to human nature and the commercialization of Christmas, "getting" sometimes becomes more prominent than "giving," and giving to "our own" sometimes has more importance than giving to the one whose birthday we celebrate. It doesn't have to be that way. We can give in a way that honors the birth of Christ, expresses our love to our family and friends, and shows our concern for the earth.

These guidelines are designed to assist individuals, families or groups who want to be more intentional in their giving. The guidelines are intended to be suggestive, not inclusive. In the end, it is you who must set the guidelines for your giving.

Using the Guidelines

1. Enlist the participation of the whole family for a discussion of these guidelines. If you are single, or a single parent, discuss the ideas presented here with those people with whom you ordinarily exchange gifts.

2. Try to have the initial discussion before the end of October. People are generally more receptive to new ways of giving if they have not already begun to plan for this Christmas.

3. Hand out copies of the cost/analysis form on page 4 and ask each family member to prepare an expense report on last year's Christmas. Encourage children to prepare reports as well.

4. When you come back together, discuss your expenses and decide on changes you will make. Consider taking 25% of last year's total and spending that on a birthday present for Jesus. You may want to take time to read Matthew 25:31-46 together and discuss the meaning of a "birthday present for Jesus." Make a covenant on what is decided.

5. Read the guidelines and discuss what might be appropriate "birthday gifts" and appropriate gifts for family and friends. Add your own guidelines to the list.

6. Consider how you can become more involved in groups that work for peace and justice in your community or denomination. (See below for some ideas.)

Guidelines for Giving

Remember Whose Birthday It Is!

Christmas gift-giving must begin with the recognition that Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. When we celebrate a birthday we give gifts to the person whose birthday it is. Moreover, we are careful to choose what that person expressly wants and needs.

Is there any doubt what Jesus wants us to give him? He pointedly insists that in order to give to him, we must find him in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)

Gifts of our time, skills and money to support ministries working with needy people are the beginning points - not the afterthoughts - of gift-giving at Christmas. Consider giving 25% of your Christmas budget (including time, skills, and money) to those in need. For example, you might give:

Warning: You probably don't have the time or money to do everything you have done in previous years and add this. The "birthday gifts" should replace some of the time and money invested before.

Plan Your Gift Giving!

In addition to giving a birthday gift to Jesus, you may want to give to friends and family. As you begin to think about gifts you might give others, carefully consider each person's interests and values, your own time, skills and money. Review the following suggestions:

Give Of Yourself!

The giving of gifts is essential to the health of our society. Giving a gift both affirms and strengthens a relationship. However, the traditional purchase of gifts is essential only to our convenience and the store's profits.

The best gift is the giving of oneself through sharing time or skills. Those who are busy may find that giving an uninterrupted period of time to a child, a family member or friend on a regular basis can be the best present. By using your skills, you can give yourself in what you make or do. Or, you can give the skill itself by teaching it to the recipient.

Here are some ideas:

Buy With Conscience!

Purchasing appropriate gifts requires careful thought. Consider these questions:

An Additional Resource

To Celebrate: Reshaping Holidays and Rites of Passage includes many ideas for alternative gifts and celebrations throughout the year. Check your church or public library for a copy. It is also available from Alternatives.

Getting More Involved

Financial support to peace and justice programs is, for many, a first step toward greater involvement. These guidelines suggest ways you can offer your time, concentration and prayers, as well as your money, for birthday gifts to Jesus at Christmas or year-round.

The degree of involvement you choose in each of these areas depends on what you have already done. If you aren't sure how you feel about the issues, you might want to learn about the background through personal or group study; or, arrange a firsthand experience by volunteering in a hospitality house or talking with a prisoner. If you have had some direct experience working in these areas, you may want to devote more time to studying the systemic dimensions of these problems. On the other hand, if you know a good deal about, say, the causes of world hunger, it may be important to work as a volunteer in a community kitchen. The significance of prayer and meditation should not be overlooked. It's easy to feel too busy to set aside quiet time; however, communication with God is a crucial source of strength and insight.

It will probably be helpful to choose a main focus for your commitment. You can work together as a family or a group by focusing on different aspects of a problem and sharing what you learn with each other. The issues represented here really cannot be categorized as neatly as our checklists may suggest. You will find that involvement in one of these areas will lead to involvement in others.

Working for Peace

Working for Adequate Food and Shelter

Working to Help Prisoners

Working for a More Responsible Lifestyle

Make copies of this resource under the Creative Commons attribution, not-for-profit license.

Page updated 11 Sept. 2013

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