Every year around this time I complain about how commercial Christmas has become. And then I busily start compiling a wish-list of things I want people to buy for me.
Every year I tell people that Christmas (for Christians, at least) is about celebrating the arrival of Christ into a desperate and hurting world. The world is still desperate and hurting, but you’d never know it to look around my upscale, suburban neighborhood: I live in the land of the year-round Santa Claus.
Meanwhile, as I’m sipping egg-nog in a warm house and tearing through a mountain of wrapped boxes this Christmas:
- 16,000 children will die on Christmas day from malnutrition and hunger-related causes, most of them in poverty-stricken parts of the world. Learn more
- 2.5 million people in Darfur will spend Christmas day in refugee tent-camps where sickness and disease runs rampant. Learn more
- Over 20 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa (mostly women and children) will spend what will most likely be their last Christmas infected with AIDS, while life-sustaining drugs are denied them by US and international patent laws. Learn more
I can no longer just look at these figures and think how fortunate I am, without doing something — no matter how small. But I don’t want to make this into a Sally Struthers guilt-moment either. I certainly don’t want to diminish anyone’s Christmas joy — actually, I just want to share it with more people! So here’s my simple proposal to my family and close friends (or any generous soul who was planning on giving me a gift this year). My Christmas non-gift list:
- What I want more than anything else this Christmas, is to help make the world a better place for a few people in countries less wealthy than ours.
- There is an organization called Kiva that is doing exactly that: Check out what they do on their website. They also do gift certificates, in increments as little as $25 dollars — a great gift for anyone, but definitely the top of my list this year. I know $25 is a little steep, so I don’t mind if two or more family/friends combine on this one.
- If you’ve checked out Kiva.org and it’s just not your thing, but you’re still determined to give me a gift (bless you), you could also make a donation to any of the following charitable organizations on my behalf (and send me an email or card to tell me about it): Jubilee USA, Humane Borders, Bread for the World, No More Deaths, One Laptop Per Child, DATA, Water Partners International, World Vision
- If you’re the type who absolutely *has* to put something wrapped under the tree with my name on it, then I’d ask that at the very least, you help me make this Christmas a less commercial, less retail-driven one: Pick a book from your personal collection that you enjoyed and are ready to part with, or make me a mix-CD of *your* favorite songs (not mine, I already have those). But if you’ve already done one of the options above, don’t feel obligated to wrap something unless it will somehow make your life incomplete not to.
- That’s it. That’s really all I want for Christmas this year.
In a few months, I begin seminary and the journey to becoming an ordained minister. This Christmas season, I’ve been reflecting a lot on that commitment: to serve Christ, who spent his days serving the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the “least of these.” Thanks in advance for helping me to make this Christmas a deep and meaningful one in light of that call.