Every year my family talks about how we are going to make this Christmas season less stressful than the last. A season that should be about "joyful expectation" has become more about fulfilling expectations for gift giving. Don't get me wrong – I enjoy gift giving, but I often struggle to do this in a thoughtful and intentional way. But Christmas can be overwhelming, and I am already feeling some of that seep into my life on December 1. If you sometimes find yourself in this boat, or if you just want to get some ideas on how to celebrate Advent and Christmas in a new light this year, I recommend reading Enough for Everyone's "Ideas for Reclaiming Advent and Christmas." The booklet gives ideas on how to give intentionally and make the most of your family's time together in this season.
Each Thanksgiving my extended family decides how we will exchange gifts at Christmas. This year we decided that "the cousins" would make a donation to Heifer International, an organization that works to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. Everyone will throw in an amount they feel comfortable with, and we'll see what our donation can buy – a goat, a llama, or some bunnies that will help a family move out of poverty and hunger. Heifer International's programs focus on animal welfare, agroecology (sustainable use of natural resources), and gender equity.
Alternative Giving is just one way to reclaim Christmas. The Presbyterian Hunger Program is offering alternative giving this year – you can give $30 to buy local seed for a community grain bank, or $22 to buy a shovel and a rake for an at-risk youth in a marketing garden project.
However you celebrate, may this season of Advent be a time of peace for you and yours as we wait expectantly. Go to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Blog for a daily Advent Devotion to center us in the meaning of this season.
Do you have any ideas for "reclaiming" Christmas?