Ways to turn a season of consumption into a season of just living
Adapted from the Reclaiming Advent and Christmas guide from Presbyterian Hunger Program | Special to Presbyterians Today
As Christmas approaches, we face many choices regarding shopping, schedules and more. In addition to consumer dilemmas, we are faced with spiritual dilemmas. On one hand, we want to observe Advent and wait for the Christ child. On the other, we want to shop and wrap and bake — and we run ourselves ragged in the process.
The following ideas from the Presbyterian Hunger Program are designed to help Presbyterians celebrate the birth of Christ in more meaningful ways than mainstream culture provides. Incorporate one, two or all of these ideas into your holiday celebrations. Share with family and friends. And when the holidays are over, turn these ideas into 2018 resolutions.
Caring for self and others
Pray and renew
Holidays can be a great time to teach, learn and write new prayers. Consider your family’s everyday prayer life, too. Rotate who prays before each meal from person to person, year to year, so everyone has an opportunity to pray. Share in reading together this year’s Advent devotional, Let Love Speak: Words and Actions to Pave the Way of the Lord. A copy is included in this issue. Order more to share with friends.
Share the work
The holidays are times of sharing, so encourage everyone to help with preparation. Let go of nonessentials to make room for more quality time. For meals, invite others to contribute a dish, table decoration or prayer, creating a table filled with the gifts of friends and family.
Encourage questions and conversations about holiday traditions past and present. Discuss the origin of traditions as you engage in them. Retell the story of the birth of Christ as you set a Nativity scene.
Take time to remember loved ones who have passed on. Recall stories to honor each one. If you have experienced a recent loss, allow time to grieve and care for yourself. Reach out to those you know are mourning or missing someone special this season.
Volunteer at a local shelter, food bank, community center or church. Or engage in another form of service and outreach, such as donating food to a soup kitchen or food bank, delivering meals or opening your home to newcomers.
Share the wealth
Take up a collection at your meal to support local efforts to alleviate hunger or have your guests bring nonperishable items to donate.
Retreat and rest
Treat yourself to quiet time and a change of pace. Incorporate prayer, views of nature, art — whatever feeds your soul and engenders holy rest in this holy season.
Alternative gift giving
Give the gift of your talents to loved ones this year. If you have a knack for crafts, music or dance, pass that knowledge along. Gifting a series of lessons empowers the people you love with new skills while passing on traditions and heritage.
Give board games or a deck of cards along with a promise to play with those who receive them. Teaching a new card game to a child or adult is a lasting gift they can share with others.
Break bread together
Give the promise of food and meals to people on your list. Promising to eat lunch with loved ones at their workplace or school once a month provides a great way to spend more time together and takes the burden of meal preparation or meal buying off the recipient.
Make a commitment
Find ways to serve the people on your list by committing to care for them. You might shovel snow, prepare meals, plan events or schedule a vacation.
Think fair trade
Selecting fair trade answers God’s call to liberate the oppressed and set the captives free. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate and snacks from the Presbyterian Coffee Project make great gift baskets or stocking stuffers, and fair-trade handicrafts support the self-development of people worldwide.
Give gifts from your garden
Providing seeds or cuttings from your own garden, teaching someone to garden, or helping someone plan a garden are all great gifts.
Knitted items, framed photos, handcrafted toys, works of art and other personally made gifts show care and concern for the recipients because they require time and thought to create.
Minimize the impact your gifts have on local landfills by packaging them in reusable or biodegradable materials. Use a gift bag or basket. Wrapping gifts in blankets or table linens creates practical and reusable packaging options.
Resources for a Just Living Christmas and New Year
There are many ways to simplify this season, and resources available to help you do just that. The following are just a few sites to get you started.
- Find markets and farms in your area by going to localharvest.org and/or sustainabletable.org
- A wealth of resources for Christians addressing a wide range of topics related to environmental justice can be found at creationjustice.org
- A great resource for general information about environmental stewardship is Earth 911. The site includes a search engine to find local recycling options for any product that may be reused or recycled. earth911.org
- Co-op America offers comprehensive guides to greening your purchases. Go to coopamerica.org
Cook and bake responsibly
Many baking items, such as sugar, cocoa, vanilla and spices, are harvested under grueling conditions. The people who bear the brunt of hard work and low pay are the most vulnerable: women and children.
Purchasing fair-trade baking goods, as well as fair-trade snacks, chocolate and beverages, helps prevent child labor and oppressive working conditions and ensures workers a fair wage.
Natural food stores in your area should sell products with the Fair Trade seal; if you don’t find what you need, ask the store manager to stock it.
Select organic foods
Organic foods are made without pesticides, hormones and other potentially harmful chemicals. Buying organic helps prevent such chemicals from polluting water systems, soil and air. Organic farming reduces farmworkers’ and consumers’ exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Local foods require less energy to transport to your table and help minimize your environmental impact. Visit localharvest.org for markets and farms in your area. Purchase locally sourced meats from free-range, organic producers. Consider creating a vegetarian or vegan feast from local farm goods.
While recycling is far better than adding waste to landfills, buying items with no packaging or reusable packaging is the best option.
Compost raw food scraps as a way to enhance your or a neighbor’s garden soil.
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