Mixed Messages

christmas-tree-83121_640 I just finished shopping for and wrapping gifts for a family in my community.  Each year the Sunday school class I’m a part of adopts a family through the local school.  We buy gifts, food, and other items to help make their Christmas a little brighter.  As I wrapped these gifts today, a number of thoughts and emotions have been flooding through.

I think of all the stories I’ve heard and read about of churches or other groups providing Christmas gifts to families in need. They all go something like this:  The gift givers gather lists, buy gifts, and wrap them all up. They set a date for delivery with the families and invite everyone along because it’s a meaningful experience. The gift givers are warmly greeted when delivering the gifts, and they head home feeling great about all the good they’ve done to help these families. In conversation with one another over the next few days, the gift givers lament that there just weren’t any fathers in the families receiving the gifts.

What we often don’t take the time to consider is how the family on the receiving end may feel. Often, fathers slip out the back door on delivery day because of the shame they feel for being unable to provide for their family.  We have the money and gifts, and they don’t.  I struggled with this myself.  I’m buying gifts for a pre-teen girl, and I’ll be honest…I have no idea what she likes.  That time of life can be so crazy when it comes to identity.  All I have is a name and shoe size and I’m supposed to discern what I think she would like or need from that?  Last week I was buying gifts for a seven-year-old girl for another organization’s gift drive and I had the same problem.

On the other hand…

As Christians we also share a message that Christmas is not about the presents or material possessions, but about Christ.  We find our salvation not in things of this world, but from a baby born in a manger who we celebrate this time of year.  We preach sermons about the true meaning of Christmas, how Christmas is not your birthday, and how the true gift is God loving us enough to send His son as sacrifice for our sins.  What a powerful message we have for the world! And really, what more would someone need?

Yet, we think about the fact that there are children in our own neighborhoods not getting showered in gifts on Christmas, and our hearts quickly fill with generosity.  How could they go without at this time of the year?

I have so many questions. Can we be in relationship we the family we are supporting?  What if we went shopping together? Would that make things better or worse?  Do they want these gifts we are giving? How do we show love to these people beyond just material gifts? What can we do that most shares the love of Christ? Is buying gifts for a person I don’t know helpful?  Are they happier and closer to God through my actions? Am I living our the radical love that Jesus models?

I am not about to boycott buying gifts for a family in need at Christmas.  There’s no way I’m going to be the grinch of our Sunday School class who refuses to be giving.  It is a good thing we are doing, but I wonder if there’s a better way. Is it possible for the system to change? Can we do even more good than we are doing?

I love Christmas, but it really can be a confusing season. We have the best message to share of all time, and it is the “reason for the season.”  It’s worth asking some of the difficult questions so that we may share this message with the world.

Allison Curts, Associate Director of Mission and Advocacy

1 Comment

  1. Some interesting thoughts and questions here, ones we don’t often think about…or even really want to think about. I agree, that as givers, we walk away “patting ourselves on the back” and feeling spiritually full because of what we have been able to GIVE the family. And I agree, it is great, but could we do more?

    What if our focus shifted to what we do FOR the family? Could we take a little time to get to know them? Could we offer them prayer, or to take their pray concerns with us? Could we invite them to church? Could we include a bible in our gift…would they even accept it?

    It would be nice to somehow include within the gift, the story of Jesus and the hope that he brings us every Christmas season and every other day of the year!

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