This has been an odd Christmas for me. Usually by this time I’ve baked cookies and stollen, prepared pie crusts, wrapped dozens of presents and decorated the house. None of that has occurred, all I really want to do is sit and read and listen for the silence. Just before Thanksgiving one of my friends was talking about celebrating an “it’s not my birthday Christmas,” where instead of presents for yourself you ask for gifts for a charity. I’ve given that quite some thought and I like that idea.
I’ve really always disliked receiving presents anyway, they are usually things I don’t need and often don’t want. And, while I would give great thought to the gifts I gave I often felt the recipients of my gifts had the same feeling. So this year I’ve done things a bit differently. Instead of buying gifts for family and friends, I told them I was giving, in their name, a gift to the Chief Seattle Club, a day shelter for homeless urban Native Americans and First Nations Peoples. I asked that instead of gifts for me that they would either send a gift for the Chief Seattle Club or give a gift in my name to a charity of their choice. No wrapping, no shopping, no shipping and someone who really needs our gifts would receive them. In addition since I wasn’t going to cook a big dinner I gave the money I would have spent to the Chief Seattle Club for their Christmas dinner. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed preparing and giving a gift so much in my whole life.
Yes, I know I haven’t done my part for the economic recovery and as a result someone somewhere may not have my few pennies for their Christmas. But shouldn’t Christmas be a time of reflection and not consumerism, a time to remember the graces given to us by God throughout the year and offer our gifts of thanks to the Christ Child. As I remember, it isn’t what you give but how you give that matters. Tradition tells us that Jesus was born in a stable and laid manger, he was poor and homeless most of his life and giving gifts to those who can’t provide for themselves seems like the proper offering to the Child in the hay. As I was dropping off my gifts at the Chief Seattle Club I had to turn away homeless men who also wanted my gifts but I am unable to feed and clothe all of the homeless, and I wonder sometimes if God understands there are too many people who can’t care for themselves and that there are way too many people who tug at my heart. I wish I had more to give. If I had the billions that some people had I would go from homeless shelter to homeless shelter just handing out gifts, but I don’t, and I don’t know what to do about that. I do the best I can and hope that is good enough.
So what will I be doing for Christmas? Well, I will be in church offering a gift of another kind, prayers and service. As an Intern Pastor I am participating in the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day service at Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA. I am grateful to be able to give to those who come to the services prayer, song and love and I am honored to read a Christmas Story I wrote a number of years ago titled “The Innkeeper” on Christmas Day.
May you be filled with the blessings of the Christ Child and may you pass on those blessings to those who are hungry, cold, suffering and/or homeless. For it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Peace and Love this Christmas Season
©Ruth Jewell, December 19, 2011