As the holiday season gets closer, my level of stress increases. I think most of us are this way. I've been trying to get to the bottom of what is really causing the stress: too much family time? over-spending? over-eating? the weather and impending months of cold and snow? the fact that it is dark when I leave the house and dark when I return? None of these.
The stress this year arises from gifts. Giving and receiving. You see, I don't want anymore stuff. I have enough. And, as you know, I'm on the reduction plan (Reduction Link). This plan will fail if for the holidays, I receive more stuff. Please don't misunderstand, I am grateful when my family and friends give me gifts. Much of gift-giving is the thought behind it, the care people take in coming up with just the right thing. But so much of gift-giving around holiday time is not knowing what exactly to get, not spending enough time selecting the gift, and ultimately giving someone something that within months has started to collect dust or been forgotten among other gifts. Dusty or forgotten gifts leads to guilt. Guilt that you didn't appreciate a gift someone gave you, guilt that someone spent money on something for you that you don't use, guilt that you don't even remember who got you the gift that has become a permanent fixture on your bookshelf. If not guilt, then at least waste. Christmas has gotten so out of control, so disconnected from Christ.
I don't remember the last time I received a gift that changed my life. Think of the last time someone gave you a gift that changed your life. If things like the laser-guided robotic vacuum, a VHS to DVD converter, a video camera Pen, or the ipad are coming to mind, your definition of life-changing may be slightly skewed. Or, think of the last time you gave a gift that changed someone's life. I, for one, have not given a Christmas gift ever that has changed someone's life. I am capable of doing this, though, so why wouldn't I?
This year for the holidays, I am going to give gifts that actually change lives. Here's what I'm doing:
First, through World Vision, I will use my holiday gift-giving money to buy a goat and two chickens for families who are hungry and undernourished so that they will have eggs, milk and meat to eat. This sounds foreign, I know. But this gift will change lives, plain and simple. You can join me in this here: Give A Goat and Two Chickens. It's $100. The i-pad is $500. ("But i-pads are so cool and what does a goat and a chicken do for me?" You are not alone. This is the self, so destructive and selfish it is!)
Second, I will talk to each member of my family to suggest that we do this as a family. Instead of us each spending money getting each other more stuff that will ultimately prove unsatisfying, we will spend whatever we budgeted for gift-giving this year to change lives.
When Jesus told the story about the sheep and the goats, He said that the righteous will ask "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" He said the King will reply: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for me." (Matt. 25:37-40) When I've thought of this story, I've thought of people I see around me -- the homeless, those who go to food pantries, those in my neighborhood. But, you know what? I know of others all over the world who are hungry and thirsty. And simply because I haven't actually seen them with my own eyes does not make this passage any less applicable. I know they are there and what I do for them, I do for Christ.
Do this with me. Let's see what happens inside and out.
Why wouldn't we?
[Look over to the side on the blog and respond to the poll when you have made your gift]