It sounds like a trick. Last week’s theme in Advent Conspiracy was Spend Less. Now we’re supposed to Give More? Wouldn’t that involve spending more?? True, the way we usually do it, with fancy things wrapped up in pretty boxes, it would mean shelling out more money, spending more time in the store or online. But the idea here is not to give more stuff; it’s to give more of ourselves. Where is your passion? What do you care most about?
Is it education? Then find ways to get involved with your local schools – maybe volunteer your time as a mentor or lunch buddy, help fund a once-in-a-lifetime field trip for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go, donate books to the school library.
Is it homelessness and hunger? Find shelters and food kitchens in your area, and ask what their needs are. It might be more money, or more people to cook, or organize donations, or make building repairs, or teach night classes.
Is it social justice issues? Make phone calls to your representatives in Congress letting them know how you feel. Find out about volunteer opportunities with local advocacy groups.
A lot of us can’t afford to write a big check or fly halfway around the world to help the hurting people we see on the news. But there are needs all around us that we can help meet. All of us have something to give. God has gifted us with time and talents that we can give back as an expression of love. And even if our financial gifts are small, we can research to find out where they will be most useful and give whatever we can.
How can we make giving more part of our family holiday traditions? Maybe you can take a child’s name from the Angel Tree in your community and make that the first gift you buy each year. Or you can have the children in your life help you make Christmas cards to send to hospitalized veterans. Perhaps it’s something as simple as taking a group of friends or church members to visit a local nursing home and sing carols for the residents there, taking the time to visit with them and share the joy of the season.
When we do these things with the people we love, it becomes a gift of time and experience that we give one another as well as God. It’s a countercultural reminder that, despite the message of the Target commercial we saw at church this morning, the message of Christmas is not, “What’d you get?” What we all get every year is a reminder of the gift of Jesus Christ – Emmanuel, God with us. In response to that, maybe we should be asking instead, “What can we give?”