It is estimated that this year, Americans will spend an average of $450 billion dollars (or $854 per person) during the busiest commercial holiday in our country: Christmas.
Now, I certainly do not wish to be painted as a Scrooge.
I love seeing my kids’ faces light up when Santa brings them just what they ask for; in fact, we even go so far as to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas, when Santa’s elves fill their stockings with a new, little gift each night leading up to Christmas. And, of course, I love getting gifts!
The problem, however, was recently pointed out to me by the wisest prophet I know, my seven year old son, when, after taking a look at all the decorations in our home, he said, “We have all this stuff about Christmas, but only a little about Jesus.”
And that, for me, is the rub. As a dad who is desperately trying to shape intentionality for my kids, I fear that the culture of consumerism and consumption will be what Christmas comes to mean for them. Our house now is so full to overflowing with broken toys from Christmases past that I can barely take a step without crushing a Lego house, tripping over a two-stringed guitar, or crunching to death a plastic triceratops.
As I think about this Christmas season, I look around me and see that my kids do not need one more present this year. In fact, accumulating more presents just creates a spirit of entitlement that counters the very generosity I hope becomes part of their lifetime DNA.
Instead, my hope is that Christmas becomes a celebration of the presence of meaningful people in their lives, beyond the presents they will soon forget.
It is my wish that the presence of God in their lives becomes the real source of shalom for them; that the presence of family offers a safe environment for them to grow in wisdom, virtue and moral courage; that the presence of suffering and injustice in society challenges them to be architects of repair in the world, capable of bringing light to dark places.
To this end, I support the great work being done by a group called “Advent Conspiracy” that seeks to “turn Christmas upside down” by focusing on the following three challenges: to worship fully, spend less, and give more. They challenge the status quo that Christmas has to be about traffic jams, crowded malls, and bad sweaters.
Their challenge is to give more time, money, and resources to those who truly need it: the poor, hungry, hurting, lonely, fatherless, etc. To turn some of that $854 into clean water, sustainable agriculture, transformative education, loving homes, and full bellies.
According to the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, it is estimated that it would cost somewhere around $20 billion to solve the global water crisis. That’s less than 5% of what’s spent in this country during one holiday shopping period in December.
To this end, I conspire that this advent season, more of my time, money and resources will go to the following organizations that sow goodness in the local (OKC) community and around the world. (These are the projects that I believe in. I encourage you to look into these or pick your own):
The Spero Project: a non-profit in OKC dedicated to making all things new in the realm of foster care, marginalized women, community development and the international refugee population
The 111 Project: a non-profit in OKC dedicated to leaving no child without a family, ever!
Room to Read: a non-profit working around the globe to lifting children out of poverty through education.
It’s a call to radical generosity. To rethink how we spend our lives. To live intentionally. To plot blessing.
Will you join me?