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 iPhone 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 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:
- Buy Nothing Christmas
- Unplug the Christmas Machine
- Simple Living Works is a great resource for simplifying our lives, not just at Christmas, but all year long. I particularly recommend listening to some of their “Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?” podcasts.
- 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.
- Only give gifts of homemade toys and/or crafts
- Give toys away at Christmas rather than accumulating more.
- Host a toy exchange with friends.
Think About Going Green
How about a living Christmas tree this year? We have used a living tree for many years and most nurseries have them available in many different sizes. You may want to plant the tree outside when you are finished with it, or, like us, put it outside still in the pot to keep growing until next year. Trees like this often survive for many years as long as you do not bring them inside.
Also, for some ideas for thinking about sustainability at Christmas time, check out: How To Have A Green Christmas. I love some of their suggestions like a battery-free Christmas, connecting to nature and alternatives to gift wrapping. They also have some excellent suggestions on sustainable giving that will probably be added to my master list next year.
With limited travel this year due to COVID-19, we will most likely be saving fossil fuels and other energy resources by staying home and staying connected to friends and family through video chats and other distant socializing platforms. Consider how this is impacting the earth during your holiday season!
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, WA, 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.
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 the Godspace store this Christmas. Godspace 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. Watch it prayerfully. What changes might God ask of you this Christmas season?
This is part of a series on Christmas/Advent resources.
- Advent Activities for Families and Kids for 2020
- Helping Kids Give Back This Christmas
- Advent/Christmas Music from a Rich Array of Traditions
- Getting Ready for Advent/Christmas Worship Resources for the Season
- Choosing Your Scripture Readings for the Coming Year
- Who Will You Invite to the Manger?
- Advent Candle Light Liturgy
- What On Earth Are The O Antiphons
Resources from Godspace for Advent and Christmas
Godspace has a variety of resources available for celebrating this season.
- Lean Towards the Light this Advent & Christmas + Advent Cards Bundle compiled by Christine Sine and Lisa DeRosa
- Lean Towards the Light Advent Retreat Online – video sessions by Christine Sine along with handouts to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child this Advent.
- A Journey Toward Home: Soul Travel For Advent to Lent compiled by Kristin Carroccino and Christine Sine
- Waiting for the Light: An Advent Devotional compiled by Ricci Kilmer, Susan Wade and Christine Sine
- Prayer Cards – more than Christmas gifts. These have been used for daily devotions, grief counseling, small groups and congregational prayers.
Check out the entire resource list here for more ideas for Advent and Christmas.
Godspace has a number of Advent resources available for both free download and purchase. Visit our store.
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