Last Sunday, as part of the Advent Conspiracy, I preached on “Spend Less” and shared a specific story about an alternative giving idea. Nancy W. Gavin started a tradition in her home of placing a small white envelope in the Christmas tree. Inside the envelope was a very special gift. You can read her original inspiring story (published in Woman’s Day December 14, 1982) here.
The main reason I “Spend Less” on Christmas gifts (that are often given out of guilt or custom) is so that I can truly “Give More” in the Spirit of Christ. As an Advent Conspiracy pastor wrote,
We know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t they just say I should spend less, and yet here they are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
A strong Christmas memory from childhood was opening our special family present. It was often a simple board game: Clue or Mousetrap or Trivial Pursuit. We would then play the game together, enjoying the friendly competition. I have no memory of who won or lost, but I do remember the powerful sense of family joy. My parents practiced “Give More” in that simple present.
After my sermon on the white envelope someone talked with me about starting their own white envelope tradition in their family. I gave him a few ideas on what projects he might consider. One was our local food shelf. Another idea is to give a gift from the ELCA gift catalog, such as a goat or pig to a family in the developing country or a week’s tuition for a seminary student. You can learn more about such good gifts at the here
The practice of “Give More” is at the heart of the Christmas story. Jesus gave himself for us. In the babe of Bethlehem, God came to us in a simple child, vulnerable and poor. As Paul reminds us
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. (Phil 2:4-8, The Message)
How might you “Give More” this Christmas?
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving yourself. Teach me to give in new ways.