A Present for Jesus
The contrast between the images struck me hard. Like many people, when I get up I do a quick check of the news on my computer. That morning my screen filled with images and stories of the tornado hitting the Philippines. Later the same day, I sat down to relax by watching a program. The ads came first. This one, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, was my first Christmas ad of the season. I won’t mention the company but like most holiday advertisements it consisted of encouragement to buy, buy, buy because the more we spent on gifts the more our relatives and friends would appreciate us. The contrast between the aching need and the extravaganza of gift giving bothered me. I was troubled when I read an article stating the average American plans to spend over $800 on gifts this year (down from over $850 last year). Self-gifting, the practice of buying a gift for oneself has increased. Is this really how Jesus wants us to celebrate his birth? What can we do different?
How about we buy a present for Jesus? It Is his birthday we are celebrating.
I am not so naive that I believe people will stop buying or exchanging gifts nor do I think we should. Many of us enjoy it. Watching children’s faces light up on Christmas Day is something parents celebrate. I do think we can remember Jesus in our gift giving.
But what would happen if each of us also bought a present for Jesus? By that, I mean what if we gave one gift designed to help at least one of the many aching needs we can find in our world? It should not be a left over gift, but a gift as big and significant as all the other gifts we give. If we spend $20 on the average gift, our Jesus gift should be at least $20. If we spend $100, our Jesus gift should be at least $100. It is, of course, always OK to give more. I know folk who have decided they do not need more stuff and ask their families to give them alternative gifts by giving where the need is greatest.
What kinds of gifts could we give? Here at the church, we regularly support Homework House http://www.homeworkhouse.com/locations.htm (free tutoring for children), Bridge of Faith http://www.bridgeoffaith.org/ (supporting women who have aged out of the foster care system without really having the skills to support themselves), and First Day http://www.whittierfirstday.org/ (working to help people overcome homelessness). Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has opened a special account for the Philippines. You can donate to that or one of the other places they are helping at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/pda/who-we-are/. Looking to help in another way? Try http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/pda/who-we-are/ for gifts ranging from wells to chickens to school packs. Not comfortable donating online? Send a check directly.