SPARK: The Christmas Gift
By Ken Sloane
According to data provided by the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans will spend an average of $1,000 on Christmas ($997.73, to be exact). Coincidentally, that number is also the average weekly salary in the U.S. That’s a pretty amazing statistic.
I’m not writing to shame people for what we spend at Christmastime. Like many of you, I love the Christmas season, getting to see my adult children, finding gifts for them, and grumbling about when someone is going to give me some grandchildren so I can spend even more (the really fun part, I’m told).
I think most of us put a higher priority on the gifts we give than those we receive. Personally, there is no better feeling than finding a gift that really surprises and is well received. And yet, many of us will get gifts we don’t need and don’t have room for, given to us by people we love who want to express their love. And they will do this because we haven’t given them another option. They will do this because we haven’t shared the idea of another way to make us feel loved this Christmas.
I’m talking about giving a gift in our honor to help someone who needs it.
- To a local food pantry to help feed people in need.
- To Heifer International for livestock to help someone in a village on the other side of the world.
- To an inner-city school to help buy books or to provide instruments for music students.
- To a school like Africa University or to an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in some of the poorest areas of the United States.
- To Habitat for Humanity, moving people into homes or to other ministries with homeless.
- Or give a gift to a ministry (youth, music, feeding, etc.) of your local church.
This list could go on for pages and pages; no doubt, other ideas popped into your mind.
Most importantly, this won’t happen until people like you and me – people who have all they need and are acutely aware of how many don’t have enough – suggest there is a better way to honor us and Jesus on the day we remember his birth.
I was reminded this morning of the words of Philippians 4:13-11
“Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.