The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Two articles have recently popped up on The Network and their timing is perfect. Like it or not, we are heading into the Christmas season, also known as the Christmas “shopping” season. While the global pandemic forges on, it appears that this is one ‘essential’ many of us won’t be giving up on or changing a whole lot.

As Christians, we are already anticipating the 4 weeks of Advent that will begin on December 1st, where we wait expectantly to receive the greatest gift of all –  our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

BUT! We are quick to remember that Christmas is also about giving and sharing! A time when we remember how blessed we are and how we can share the joy of Christmas with those near and far through the simple act of gift-giving.

So, how will we spend our money this year? 

Individually, but also a church body. Where is your diaconate focusing its efforts? Where are you encouraging your members to give generously this year?

One tradition that has been upheld by members and churches alike is the “Operation Christmas Child” aka the “Shoebox Project”. Children and parents have waited all year long to fill these boxes with little trinkets and goodies that will bless a child halfway around the world. What a beautiful way to learn about AND practice giving, at a time when we can easily focus on the ‘receiving’ part of Christmas. 

And yet…

Jodi Koeman’s article, Just Giving? Or Giving JUSTLY? Questions, Ideas, and Principles For Your Christmas Giving, challenges us to think about WHO we are buying for and what they need (have we bothered to ask them?). It’s important to also examine our motives for giving and what companies or organizations we are supporting when we purchase our gift of choice (eg. are we buying local and/or fair trade products or “Dollar Store/Made In China” items?). And lastly, what message – deliberate or not – are we sending to the recipient? 

Phew! That’s a lot to unpack!

Some of you may be thinking, “Oh, for pete’s sake! It’s just a Christmas gift!” Or “It’s just a token of our Christian love! Don’t overthink it!”. Or my favourite: “They’re just children; they don’t care about all of this stuff! They just want a gift this Christmas!! It may be the only thing they get this year!”.

On their face, these ‘objections’ seem valid, and I’ve probably thought one or all of these at one time. And yet, why not, as Jodi poses, take the time to be a bit more thoughtful and intentional about our giving this year? If nothing else, hasn’t Covid-19 taught us what is essential? What really matters? That maybe the way we’ve always done things wasn’t the best way? Please understand me: It doesn’t mean you were doing it all wrong before, but perhaps there is a better way. A more holistic and sustainable way that can bless a child or family beyond one moment or one day.

It doesn’t mean you have been doing it wrong, but perhaps there is a better way to give this Christmas.

Something I’ve been reminded of recently as I’ve been reading through the book “White Fragility” (stay with me here) is the difference between intent and impact. Without going into a long explanation of this, I think this applies in this case as well. While our Christmas gift-giving can have the best of intentions, do we concern ourselves with the impact it has? Should we concern ourselves with this? 

I believe we should. And we must.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Coupled with this article is one from our friends at World Renew. Maria Oliveira, a lovely lady I’ve had the privilege of working with over the past year, shared World Renew’s Annual Gift Catalogue along with some delightful ideas on how to engage your congregation in utilizing the catalogue this year.

I hope I don’t have to go into detail on why this Gift Catalogue checks all of the boxes in terms of giving justly. Oh what the heck, here goes!:

  • It offers someone a gift they need (eg. clean drinking water vs. a hair bow)
  • It empowers the receiver to use the gift in their own context and with their own skills and abilities. (The old saying “Give a man a fish…” applies here nicely.)
  • It often purchases a local gift which blesses both the recipient and a local vendor or business which blesses THEIR local economy, not ours. (Eg. when purchasing a bicycle, it’s coming from a local vendor, not being shipped from China, to Canada, and then to Africa. And don’t get me started on the environmental impact of that!) Actually…
  • It reduces our environmental impact as items are purchased locally when and where possible (or within country or continent borders) which also avoids extra shipping costs and delays.
  • It offers gifts at every price point so it’s accessible to many. It rivals any dollar store so even children and adults on a low or fixed income can participate because of the various gifts available.
  • It builds trust between World Renew and the people they live among and are in relationship with. 
  • It builds trust between World Renew and the local organizations in the countries where they work.
  • It puts the receiver in the spotlight, not the giver. (In other words, it’s not about you! Sorry!)

Perhaps this year, instead of just giving, we can give justly.

Have more ideas to share? 

Want to add to my list of reasons to buy from the World Renew Gift Catalogue?

How is your church giving justly both locally and globally this Christmas?

Let Erin know –

(Featured Image: Image by congerdesign from Pixabay)