Each year, one of my campus ministers has us fill out a worksheet. It asks us to estimate our weekly expenditures in fun/leisure categories. Eating out, non-water beverages, entertainment, etc. Things that are luxuries, not necessities. After it's filled out, we multiple by 50 to get a rough estimate of how much we spend on luxuries each year. Then we add up everyone's estimates and compare it to our summer missions fund goal. We typically spend double, triple, or quadruple the amount of our goal. This exercise puts things in perspective.
For all that I joke about being a poor, starving college student, I'm not. I am able to buy everything that I *need* as well as many *wants*.
I recently read a book called "Christmas is not Your Birthday" by Michael Slaughter. The basic premise is that Christmas is *not* our birthdays, but we buy all these gifts for ourselves and our loved ones. What gifts do we give Jesus on His birthday? Do we act like His followers in the midst of a crowded store?
America's culture is one of consumerism and materialism. The Advent season, which is supposed to be a season of anticipation, hope, and waiting, is lost in the shopping, rushing around, and stress that is tied to Christmas. Mr. Slaughter challenges people to buy Jesus a gift for Christmas; after all, we celebrate it as His birthday.
What do we give Jesus on His birthday?
What about feeding the hungry, watering the thirsty, clothing the naked, inviting in the stranger, caring for the sick, or visiting those in prisons? The things we do for "the least of these," we do for Jesus (according to Matthew 25). Look through the Bible; who is mentioned repeatedly as someone God cares about? Widows and orphans (James 1:27). God is the father to the fatherless and defends the widows (Psalm 68:5). He created laws about harvesting to provide for those without a father or husband (search for gleaning in your Bible).
If I love God, I will obey His commands (see John 14:15 & 21 and 1 John 5:2-4 and 2 John 1:6). If I love God, I care about the things/people He cares about. If I love God, I make it my work to carry out His work. If I love God, I love those He loves.
So what's the challenge for Christmas?
For every dollar you spend on yourself, friends, and family this Christmas, give the same amount to a Christian organization that helps the poor, the widowed, and the orphans. (this challenge came from Mr. Slaughter's book).
What would happen if this Christmas, I donated food and served at a soup kitchen?
What would happen if I bought my gifts from organizations that help people get out of poverty (see 10,000 villages)?
What would happen if instead of buying gifts for my family, I bought gifts in their honor to give to those less fortunate (at Heifer International, I can buy an animal that will be given to a family who can use it to make money. i.e. buy a chicken and they can sell its eggs)?
What would happen if instead of buying brand-new gifts, I thrift-shopped for them instead?
What would happen if I asked for my gifts to help others instead?
What would happen if I donated a dollar to an official charity for every dollar I spent this Christmas?
Is it possible that this may be the best Christmas ever?