The spirit of Advent giving: Alternative Christmas giving creates a new family tradition

12/6/2009

Advent Conspiracy Opportunity: Honor Family Members with a Gift to Others
by Rachel K. Sparkman

I am part of a large extended family, and we have many special holiday traditions. When I was a child, the whole family drew names out of a hat to tell us whose present we were going to buy that Christmas. For me, choosing the gifts was almost as exciting as receiving them. I had to think very hard about the relative I was buying for, their likes and interests. Then I had to find the perfect present that would let them know how much they are loved. Through this tradition, I learned the important lessons that Jesus taught about giving to others without thought for yourself.

As my cousins, brothers and I have grown up, graduated high school and college, gotten married and started families of our own, we have grown in our ideas of giving. We started to realize that there are many people in the world who have far less than we do and that it is our responsibility to help them. So, last year we decided to try something a little different at Christmastime. One of my aunts suggested that we still draw names, but instead of buying gifts for each other we would choose a charity and donate money in the other person’s name. To make it more fun, we would think of an interesting way to present the gift to the relative.

On the day of our family Christmas celebration, we all gathered in my grandparents’ living room. The space around the tree was still full of presents, but this time they were for the youngest children, those of the newest generation of our family. As we started to present our charitable gifts to each other, we discovered we could have just as much fun now, without presents, as we had in the past. My uncle, a talented writer and musician, presented a gift to his sister by writing a song that made everyone cry. My elementary teacher cousin and her husband made a game out of it, singing clips of songs and making us guess the charity—“I’ve Got a Chigger” for the Sumatanga fund and “White Christmas” for… can you guess? Their three year old even got into it, doing a little dance for each song!

One of the most moving things about this new tradition was how personal each gift was. While in years past we had to think of each other in terms of hobbies and interests, now we thought terms of passions and values. Many of the gifts were given to charities in Haiti because my cousin married a wonderful woman from that country and it is very dear to all of our hearts. When it was my turn to receive a gift, my aunt gave a moving speech about how much I meant to our family, mentioning my love of children and teaching. She then announced that a gift had been made in my name that would pay for a child in Haiti to go to school for a whole year. This gift meant so much to me that I was in tears. To know that a child will be able to get an education because of my family and our love for each other is a true testament to how Jesus’ love, shown through us, can change the world.

The surprising thing about this new family tradition was how much we were blessed by giving these gifts. In trying to do the right thing and spread God’s love to the world, we each received a personal blessing that made Christmas even more special. I love our new family tradition, and I believe it will continue for a long time to come. The youngest generation of our family now has a concrete example of what it means to be a disciple and give of oneself. I am blessed to be part of a wonderful family full of people who love, give, and are blessings to others. Merry Christmas!

Do you want a way to honor the ones you love this Christmas?  Give a donation in their names to a  North Alabama Conferene Advance Special


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