December 7, 2019 First Week of Advent – Day 7 of the Advent Alphabet
G 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 day 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 that the Magi gave Jesus gifts to honour his birth, and now we celebrate his birth by gifting each other? This Wikipedia article: 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. It is sad and ironic to hear business and political leaders encouraging us to spend more, in honour of the birth of Jesus, as a way to make things better. It is as if it is our 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 actually being hurt, and killed, in disputes over “bargains”. This extreme behaviour, and the terrible consequences that will be experienced by family members, 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 China, as far as I can tell!), the packaging, and the wrapping. We may want to consider just how much “stuff” we actually need. We may want to consider whether or not 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 continue to struggle to acquire the basics needed for life.
One year, my family hosted a pre-Christmas open house, and served baking 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 continues to provide 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 check out: https://giftswithvision.ca/
The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet will be a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections will be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and will also be posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.