G is for Gold

magi-and-goldG is for gold. When the Magi  “saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)

Another time I want to discuss the Magi finding Jesus in a house. Today I want to talk about gifts.

Do you ever wonder why it is the Magi gave Jesus gifts to honour his birth, and now we celebrate his birth by gifting each other? An article I referenced the other day http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas offers insight into the development of the gift giving tradition. It also discusses the importance of holiday spending to the first world economy. (G is for Gold!)

Many retail businesses in Canada depend upon December sales to make their profits for the year. I remember a few years ago, in the wake of an economic downturn, we heard political leaders encourage spending as a way to make things better. The suggestion was we had a patriotic duty to shop.

I can remember living in the United States and being warned by friends to stay away from stores on Thanksgiving weekend- the beginning of the annual shopping frenzy. Sadly, there are stories every year about people in stores being injured in disputes over “bargains”. This extreme behaviour should serve as a warning for the rest of us- like the canary in a coal mine.

There are good reasons to look carefully at our spending and giving patterns at Christmas time. The first may be the one I eluded to earlier- that we may have got off track from the start, by giving each other gifts, when it is Jesus we intended to honour. There are other reasons.

We may want to consider the ecological impact of all the goods that are transported here from around the world (mainly Asia, as far as I can tell!), the packaging, and the wrapping. How much “stuff” do we truly need? Do the things we buy actually convey the message, and communicate the feelings we have for our loved ones? We may want to consider the morality of exchanging expensive (and often un-needed) gifts while other people struggle for the basics needed for life.

One year, my family hosted a pre-Christmas open house, and served baked goodies and hot apple cider. We accepted donations for World Vision, and together with our contributions, we raised enough money to buy sheep, and farming implements, and classroom supplies, for people in the developing world. Our kids loved the project, and the memory provides a good balancing effect against some of the media-induced “needs and wants” that appear on our Christmas lists.

Have you finished your planning and shopping for this season, or is there still time to make some changes? Here is a good website to look at: http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/alternatives/index.html

The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, minister at Trinity United Church in Oakville, Ontario.

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