My wife and I don’t usually give gifts anymore to ourselves at Christmas. We determined that we had enough stuff in our lives and decided that we would give to others who were not as fortunate. One year we gave to the Heifer Project that combats world hunger by providing animals to help people become self-sufficient. We also gave to the local Food Bank to assist in keeping area families nourished. We have given to the Southern Poverty Law Center to help them in fighting against intolerance and hate groups in this country.
We get numerous requests both throughout the year and especially at the end of the calendar year to give financial support to many worthy causes. If we were independently wealthy, I would have no problem giving to all of them. However, on my UUA salary and my wife’s salary, we must make meaningful decisions on where our gifts can do the most good. The first place we give is to our home church. They get the largest part of our contributions. We also support the JPD Chalice Lighter program to assist in growing our faith beyond the local church. We are Friends of the UUA and have a regular donation taken out of my paycheck.
I list all of these areas of our generosity not to brag but to show that a part of my faith is using the blessings I have received to help others. Giving is a spiritual discipline that we cultivate in our lives. It isn’t something that we trot out at one time of year but is a practice that becomes a part of our everyday lives. I believe that when we give of both ourselves and our resources, we make the world a little bit better.
According to the story, three wise men came from afar to see the baby Jesus in the manger. They came bearing precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to give to the baby. In the ancient near East, these last two gifts were worth their weight in gold. These gifts were meant to pay homage to Jesus and what he stood for to those wise men.
As you enter this season of the holidays, what are the gifts that you bring? Who do you lift up that is in need of your time? Who might be made better through your talents? And what would your treasure do to make the world better?
I have a favorite reading by Howard Thurman that I have used for many years. I share it with you as my wish for your gifts to be used in merry measure throughout the coming year.
The Work of Christmas
When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.
May the love of family, friends, and church provide you with a community that celebrates the work of Christmas so that our world will be a little bit warmer for those most in need of our love. Happy Holidays.