Christmas is coming. We know it well because the demons of consumerism and materialism have reared their ugly heads all around us. Hallmark has already begun their “countdown to Christmas” movies and the annual barrage of gift catalogues has hit us.
Most of us find ourselves in a real bind at this season. Do we have a gift free Christmas and turn our backs entirely on consumerism? Do we buy only gifts that come from fair trade, slave free, or local organization and feel that we are making difference with our purchases? Or do we develop a holier than thou attitude and turn our backs completely on the secular celebration of the season?
If we are honest, we all struggle with these issues and are not sure how to enter into the true spirit of Christmas without disappointing our kids or denying our own enjoyment of Christmas goodies and unexpected presents. Simplify Christmas, Celebrate Christ we tell ourselves while hoping that we will find a new I-phone under under the tree.
For most of us our simplification of Christmas is a compromise that hopefully does focus more on the celebration of the birth of Christ than on the secular materialistic spirit of the season. If you are struggling with these issues here are some thoughts to reflect on before the season gets into full swing.
When I posted this prayer last year and talked about the need to simplify the traffic on the blog zoomed. People everywhere are looking for resources to help them keep their time and resources under control. People of faith are looking for a new rhythm that will enable them to truly focus on the presence of Christ and bear witness to the love of God.
Here are a couple of resources to explore to help:
Christmas Gifts that Won’t Break provides weekly Advent reading, looks at spiritual gifts that bring hope, peace, joy, and love to family, community, and world and challenges people to rethink the gifts they ask for and give during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Centre for A New American Dream has a great downloadable booklet Simplify the Holidays as well as other resources.
Celebrate Advent and Keep the Christmas Festivities For Christmas.
Advent begins November 29th. In the liturgical calendar this is the season of waiting, leading up to Christmas. This post by Charlie Clauss has some great thoughts on why this matters. To truly enter into the spirit of Advent I try to get my Christmas shopping done early. It helps keep me focused on the real meaning of the countdown to Christmas.
I start my Advent preparations early, refurbishing my Advent garden and going on retreat to clear my mind and set priorities for the season. This is a great discipline for me that helps me both focus and simplify.
Give Christmas Away This Year
Consider alternative celebrations to the usual Christmas parties. A couple of years ago MSA team member Cindy Todd made soap for an event at Church of the Beloved in Edmonds Washington whose theme was – A Slave Free Christmas. It highlighted making or buying articles that were made without slave labour. Participants also watched and talked about the film Dreams Die Hard and talked about the issues of slavery still present in the United States.
Pay more for less when you buy gifts. Tom and I are Christmas people and to be honest could not really imagine no gifts at Christmas, but we do restrict our gift giving and try to buy locally produced or fair trade items as much as possible. One of my good friends receives a monthly package of coffee from Camano Island Coffee Roasters which partners with Agros to enable communities in Central America to get on their feet. There are a growing array of stores that provide fair traded gifts in everything from clothing to soccer balls.
Our administrative assistant Katie Metzger has started a fair trade ethically produced clothing company called Same Thread. Not only does she employ women in Thailand who would otherwise end up in the sex trade, but their clothing uses sustainable materials and dyes as much as possible too.
One of my favourite places to shop at this season is Ten Thousand Villages.
Consider alternative charitable gifts to organizations like World Concern, and Heifer Project that provide animals and other gifts for people in impoverished communities to enable them to start small businesses.
Consider gifts from MSA this Christmas. MSA also has a number of Advent and Christmas resources that make great gifts too. Our prayer cards make great stocking stuffers and can be used throughout the year to bring rhythm and reflection into peoples’ lives.
Give away one day’s wages to an organization of your choice – like One Days Wages – that works to overcome poverty.
Watch these videos
This one from A New American Dream is a good one for reflecting on the values that underly your Christmas expenditure. Is Christ truly at the center of your celebrations?
This one from Advent Conspiracy is even more compelling. Watchi it prayerfully. What changes might God ask of you this Christmas season?
This is part of a series of posts on Advent/Christmas resources.