I wrote this for Fellowship’s newsletter this week. Thought some of you might enjoy it. If any of you friends who read this would like to receive our newsletter and keep up with what’s going on, email me and I’ll get you on the email list.
The most impacting sermon I’ve ever heard was given by Tony Campolo on a Tuesday morning during Chapel while I was in seminary. During the sermon, while talking about materialism, Campolo posited that the greatest challenge most of us face around Christmas time is this: What do you get the person who has everything?
Campolo asserted that, obviously, the answer is, “Nothing!” Why spend time and energy buying a person something they don’t need, won’t use, and will soon forget about?
That year Kelley and I decided we would stop stressing about what to get each other for Christmas. We realized we were spending large amounts of energy and resources buying each other gifts we really didn’t need. Instead, each year, over and above our tithe, over and above what we give for missions, over and above what we give for Angel Tree gifts or Operation Christmas Child gifts, we each would pray over and choose a worthy cause to donate to in lieu of buying each other presents.
The first year I looked through Buckner International’s gift catalogue (http://donate.bucknerfoundation.org/Page.aspx?pid=1074) and gave to support orphans I had worked with in Russia. Kelley gave through Heifer International (www.heifer.org) and gave a goat to a family in Africa that would provide milk and some income for them. Each year it has become a way for Kelley and I to worship and be reminded of what Christmas is truly about.
Over the past few years there is a movement called Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.org) which challenges people to give one less present for Christmas each year and instead, use that money to give to someone who truly needs it.
These words are on Advent Conspiracy’s webpage,
“The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.
So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.
And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of miss. Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.”
Their aim is to lead people to worship more, spend less, give more, and love all during the season of Advent leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. I think it is a worthy aim for all of us to shoot for.
There is great joy in the giving and receiving of presents. It is a beautiful tradition that promotes generosity, service, and love. But for those gifts we give out of obligation, for the gifts intended for the people who have everything, for the gifts that cause more stress than joy, consider giving in a different fashion this year.
Spend the time and energy it takes buying some of these present praying and visiting with your spouse or other loved one about your passions and where you might give. Make it a tradition for you and your children or grandchildren, to discuss, research, pray about, and decide together to give to some worthy organization or people. Give in honor of the person who has everything and can’t be bought for, give in memory of a loved one who we truly miss during this time of year.
Extend the blessing of all of the giving and receiving during this Christmas season beyond a closed circle of family and friends.
May we all strive to Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All this Christmas season.
To stimulate the thinking and praying of those who join me in this challenge, below are a few websites of organizations that are close to my heart.
Buckner Gift Catalogue – http://donate.bucknerfoundation.org/Page.aspx?pid=1074
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering – http://www.imb.org/main/give/ (this offering is being taken up at Fellowship each Sunday of December)
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship World Mission Offering – http://www.thefellowship.info/OGM
Living Water International – http://www.water.cc/
Compassion International – http://www.compassion.com/
Heifer International – www.heifer.org