Doing Christmas Differently: Give More
Today is the Advent Sunday of Joy. As we anticipate the coming of our Savior, Jesus, to the joy filled songs of the angels, our hearts are heavy, heavy today. In our prayers for salvation…in the conversation of our children…in the lullabies the choir has sung…in all of these moments and more in worship today we want to cry in confusion and grief, such grief, for the violence in Connecticut on Friday, for the little lives gone, for the families whose loss will never be healed. It’s true that this Advent we wait in the darkness…such darkness…for the coming of the light. And sometimes the darkness seems too heavy to bear. For the courage to face the darkness of our world and keep believing in the coming of the light, we pray this day. And we pray Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy…on us.
Today, with hearts heavy and hurting, we consider again this Advent Conspiracy we’ve been trying to live…conspiring together to treat the season like the holy waiting period it is, working to scale back and be more intentional and thoughtful in the way we live these days leading up to Christmas. Today our invitation is…to give more.
Give more?, you ask in confusion. Our emphasis last week was to spend less. But giving more is an opportunity to give differently, to give relationally, opening our hearts and our wallets in ways that nurture the relationships we treasure and bring healing to our hurting world.
I brought something to show you today. This was a gift given to me about twelve years ago by a very proud six year old. He had carefully molded the bowl out of clay, and painted it with glaze in time for it to be fired so he could give it to me as a gift. The reason I love this gift is not for its sleek design or expensive branding. The reason I love this gift is because I love that little six year old (who is now 18), and every time I look at the bowl I think of him and I think of those little hands working so hard to make this just for me.
Christmas is a time of gift-giving; it’s one of the most stressful parts of the holiday, but it can also be…if we want it to…one of the most meaningful.
The thing that we can so easily forget in the craziness of these days leading up to Christmas is that the best gifts are relational gifts. Can you remember a gift that you have been given that means a lot to you? Chances are it’s something that makes you think of a relationship. The best gifts we can ever give, hands down, are gifts of ourselves.
When we approach our gift giving with intention like this, most times we end up giving more…giving more of ourselves, giving more in ways that are lasting, giving more sacrificially. And in doing this we take our cues from the very one for whom we wait. God’s gift to us at Christmastime wasn’t a new flat screen, after all. It was relationship, relationship with the God of the universe through the person of Jesus Christ. It was relationship and presence, God come to live among us and to be our peace. What a precious, sacrificial gift, and one that’s hard to forget, wouldn’t you say?
In a world filled with fractured relationships and desperate pain, our determination to give more of the kinds of gifts that reflect how we want to live in relationship with others and with this world can send a message that’s loud and clear: we want to do Christmas differently this year.
This week your invitation to give and serve is to give at least one gift of relationship. Find an organization that works to heal the world in the way that Jesus came to show us, and give a gift that reflects your relationship with Jesus Christ. Not another sweater at the mall, but a gift to help victims of hurricane Sandy, or support medical care in rural villages in Nicaragua through our Christmas mission offering. Give a farmer in the Philippines a chicken through Heifer International. Buy a gift handcrafted by a woman’s cooperative in Nigeria. Or…give some time. Visit someone who’s lonely or ill. Help the deacons deliver poinsettias to Calvary’s elders. Write someone you love a letter telling them so.
And for goodness sake, after the tragic shooting of this week, don’t wait. Don’t wait to give more of the kinds of gifts—gifts of time and intention and love—that show the people in your life how you care, that contribute to the healing of this broken, hurting world.
And perhaps it is here where we can see some joy this week. There is joy in healing acts that care for others; there is still joy in relationships of love that can transform our world. The prophet Zephaniah extolled the great joy of such gifts of relationship when he told the people to rejoice and shout, for God was in their midst. As we wait for the birth of this baby whose life changed our world forever, our hearts are filled to overflowing with the relational gift of God with us. In the face of violence and hatred and fear, what shall be our response?
Give more and more and more. Reflect God’s gift of relationship by healing this world and nurturing the relationships you care about. Give more. Will the ushers come forward?
O God, help us to be people whose lives reflect true relationship with you. Help us find ways to give more in ways that are relational and healing. And heal our broken, hurting world, we pray. In the name of Jesus, Amen.