Today is the day at church where individuals and families bring their Angel Tree gifts in. Every year we receive around 250 names of children who share a Christmas wish list of items they would like to receive. So, on this day church members will bring in their bagged items and we'll load the clothes, books, toys, and bikes up in two moving trucks [THANK YOU Bill & Lois Monro of Monro Moving & Storage for donating the trucks and 2 workers for 5 hours!] to be taken to Augusta Urban Ministries. http://www.augustaurbanministries.org/ AUM coordinates the city wide collection, receives the donated items, and then will distribute to families the following Saturday. In addition we also collect 250 jars of peanut butter, 450 bags of flour, and 450 boxes of cereal. It is a very special day that "rings in" the season for me as I experience the emotions of those who give and the collective power as individuals and families work together.
Some years ago we offered an Alternative Christmas Market. We'd give options so that people could help organizations or groups and not just buy more junk for the people in their life! So, people might buy "stock" for Heifer Project International and for their donation which would purchase animals to go to a village somewhere in the world they would receive a gift card to give to good old Uncle Joe who already has everything in the world he needs, yet would appreciate a gift in his honor that changes the world. Others might purchase "studs" for Habitat for Humanity or the Fuller Center for Housing which would aid local work, and prove a fitting gift for Aunt Sue! You get the idea- honor someone at Christmas and change the world without merely creating more clutter in our lives and souls!! It proved a productive, fun favorite of the congregation for a number of years.
In this tougher economy with so many local needs in all of our cities it makes me wonder what alternative gift ideas you might have. Perhaps it's your own creation. Or maybe some activity such as our Angel Tree giving that brings the spirit of the season to life for you. I'm not talking so much about writing a check, or doing what we've always done at Christmas. Instead I'm imagining alternative gift ideas that might be a Christmas blessing to you and to someone else. Maybe that's a shared meal. Perhaps it is spending time with someone who is lonely or isolated. Certainly there is a child or teenager or college student who might not have much of a Christmas unless we have our eyes and ears open and respond to the need.
Be alive to these moments. Share your thoughts as we seek to experience the gift which can be so easily overlooked in the busyness of the season.