Saturday, December 6, 2014

Radical Christmas Giving

For the first time since 1978 I tuned into Saturday Night Live (SNL) a few weeks ago to catch my brother's favorite performing artist Prince. Before Prince's historic, 8-minute musical interlude on SNL, comedian Chris Rock delivered a monologue that has made me rethink traditional American Christmas giving. In a witty way, he questioned why there is so much consumerism around Christmas—the holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the least consumer-driven person ever!

So true.

To make this long and familiar story short, in Christian belief, Christmas is about celebrating God's gift to humanity, his only son Jesus Christ. Angels illuminated the sky singing praises, the shepherds brought their flocks, and the three wise men gave gifts to the Christ child. The beginning of the tradition of giving gifts to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas.You probably know the rest of the story. Jesus eventually died on the cross to give everlasting life to those who believe in Christ. The ultimate gift.

Gift giving and the whole shopping experience seems part of the American culture. It is probably safe to say that more people shopped over the Thanksgiving Day weekend than voted in the 2014 midterm elections. I guess that shows where Americans' priorities lie.

The New York Times notes that 133.7 million Americans shopped over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, spending $50.9 billion. Billions! Ever wonder how much good could be done with $50 billion? Improving water, feeding the hungry, providing necessary clothing and shelter for the homeless. $50 billion spent on humanity may only make a dent, but a better dent than feeding our consumerism. New flat screen TV for Dad, luxurious Coach handbag for Mom, or a gift to strangers in a developing country?

Not a tough choice. We want to spend on ourselves, our families, and our friends. That's great, but think of giving in a new way. Buy fewer gifts for your loved ones who already have all they could ever need.

Mull over giving a gift to someone who really needs it. And I'm not talking about tossing a quarter into the Salvation Army red kettle. Donate money to your favorite cause, give scholarship money to your Alma Mater to help a student in need, or consider doing more. Remove your blinders, ponder the true meaning of Christmas, and give a gift to someone who needs food more than a new phone. Here are some radical ways that my family has given back:

Compassion International: Sponsor a child. Ours is Mathias in Tanzania for $38 each month.

Feed My Starving Children: Package food for those starving in Haiti and African nations. There is probably an opportunity near you.

Doctors Without Borders: The one organization that is successfully fighting the battle against Ebola.

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