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Creating a plan for Christmas gift-giving

Planning your generosity

By Deborah Rexrode | Presbyterians Today

People born between 1977 and 1985 are often referred to as millennials. However, nine years is hardly enough to qualify as a separate generation, and so many who are born in that time frame feel as though they don’t quite belong. They have one foot in Generation X and one in Generation Y. They are the bridge between an analog childhood and a digital adulthood, and we often remind them of that.

Our younger son, Christopher, was born in October 1985. He doesn’t appreciate being labeled as a millennial, especially given the stereotypes we assign to them, such as being lazy or self-absorbed. Chris worked hard to get to where he is today and endured some of life’s difficult challenges. As a college graduate, he searched for nearly two years for a job during the economic downturn a decade ago.

Chris lives outside of Washington, D.C. He is a good steward of what he has and spends a lot of time keeping track of how he uses his resources. I especially admire him and the way he manages his money during the holidays. He loves experiences. He and his friends often give gifts that involve spending time with one another, like an overnight trip to Philadelphia for dinner, a movie and other fun activities. They are less interested in accumulating stuff than my generation.

As the holiday season approaches, Chris plans what he will spend for gift-giving and considers several charities where he thinks a gift will make a difference. He does research and knows how the gift will be used. Once his decision is made, he matches the amount he has budgeted on friends and family with charitable contributions for the same amount.

Younger generations are quite observant of our giving behaviors, and I think we have a lot to learn from them. They see our excessive spending and the debt we incur to make sure everyone has “enough.” They choose to redefine what “enough” looks like as they make choices about their money and their time.

Arthur Simon, in his book “How Much is Enough?” suggests that Jesus’ words about possessions, and his call to deny self, take up the cross and follow him, gave the people hope and purpose as they formed a new community of faith. Believers were keenly aware of the idolatry that comes with attachment to money and saw generosity to the poor as a service to God.

Just as Chris plans what he will spend on gifts to loved ones as well as charities, how can the church inspire and encourage those in the congregation to plan their Christmas gift-giving in a way that tells the story of the offerings of self and sacrifice that we bring to the manger?

Perhaps draw up a list of the ministries that need the church’s generosity, and let the congregation know of the ways they can give as they consider their gift list. Encourage them to match their Christmas gift-giving budget and give that amount to those in need. Or include on your list of gift recipients a place of need in your community that takes you outside the walls of your congregation, a place to go and — like Chris and his friends who seek experiences — experience Christ among us.

Several years ago, Chris introduced me to Casting Crowns, a contemporary Christian rock band started by a youth pastor who serves as the band’s lead vocalist. Every year as we approach Advent and Christmas, I listen again to the lyrics of one of their songs, “Christmas Offering”: Over the skies of Bethlehem appeared a star/While angels sang to lowly shepherds/Three wise men seeking truth, they traveled from afar/Hoping to find the child from heaven falling on their knees/They bow before the humble Prince of Peace/We bring an offering of worship to our King/No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing/Jesus, may you receive the honor that you’re due/O Lord, I bring an offering to you.

This Advent and Christmas, as gifts are being bought and money is spent on stuff, let your sacrifice be to bring an offering to the King, one that gives God glory for all that we are and all that we have been given.

Dr. Deborah Rexrode is the associate for stewardship for the Presbytery of the James in Richmond, Virginia. She also serves as a church financial leadership coach with the Presbyterian Foundation and is an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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