Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Simple Christmas

it shouldn't come as a big surprise to readers of this blog that I regularly take challenge from Phil Whittall's blog, called The Simple Pastor.

One of our practical responses to this whole area, probably best summarised in this post here, is the question of how we approach Christmas.

Last Christmas we made an undertaking, to do everything we could to ensure that our Christmas gifts were either charitable giving, fair trade, or charitable shop purchases. NB - Not "Charity shop" as in second hand, but "Charitable" as in - profits go to a charitable cause.

It was quite an adventure really, and we got close, so close, before time, energy and wanting a couple of specific things meant we did not manage 100%, but were somewhere in the nineties.

The Leprosy Mission Shop was an absolute goldmine and allowed us to get a birdbox and 7 different books for family members, with the profit going towards the work of the Leprosy Mission.

The "Alternative Gifts" of cash donations to charities on behalf of those receiving the gifts took a bit of finding, but we settled on World Vision, Barnabas Fund (which has an excellent menu system on its donations page to choose the recipients and finally Tearfund's excellent Living Gifts site which allows the recipient to choose their own recipient of the gift.

And so "Sanitising a well", "disaster relief kits" "irrigation kits", "School books" and donations to persecuted believers in Pakistan, West Africa and Sudan, as examples, were all given. We gift aided the presents to ensure the maximum went to the charity.

Our local fair trade shop provided a vase, scarf and candle.

Two worship CDs from our local Christian bookshop were also added to the present pile.

We then moved away from the basic theme and used a website to buy a couple of funky personalised calendars, and got a few miscellaneous boxes of chocolates.

The whole process really did make us think - and these are the questions it posed.

1) Who benefits from our expenditure?

2) Worse still, who is oppressed by our consumption? Does our happy Christmas contribute towards making someone else's unhappy?

3) What is real generosity? Is it giving people who have what they need things that they don't need? Isn't that just waste?

4) Will our friends and family think we are weird? Or even worse, cheapskates? I was really nervous - but most were thrilled.

5) How can we approach the expense of Christmas and use it to actually bless, share, and model our values about the kingdom of God?

It was a very humbling experience, going out on a limb socially, doing something a bit different and trying to find a way to make our Christmas really matter.

We tried to do it so everyone got something to keep and something to share - a small gift for them and a small gift for the charity.

I have never felt more content at Christmas, knowing a couple of hundred pounds was winging its way directly to charitable causes across the world, while still being a blessing to my friends and family.

As you start to think about Christmas, and think about saving up for presents, have a think about this post and let it spark some ideas for you.

Let's make Christmas 2008 a "Happy Christmas" for as many people as possible.

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