Christmas 2009 can be the year your family restocks Christ’s manager… literally. Sheep, cows, and other animals were good enough to surround our Lord on his birth; today, they can be the best gifts we give to others. This year let your family give Christ a birthday present reminiscent of His birthplace.
All children look forward to writing their annual Christmas list, both the gifts they want, and the ones they need to buy. Hopefully, they have learned the value and joy of giving presents to loved ones. Being realists though we know Christmas, in today’s society, has gotten out of hand; it has become all about wants. Do children truly understand the concept of need anymore?
As parents we are all concerned about children not understanding the true meaning of Christmas and we are weary of trying to recreate a picture perfect, made for T.V. Christmas season. The endless commercial hype for Christmas begins earlier each year in the hopes of "getting people in the mood". Our Lord’s birthday celebration has been trivialized, marginalized, and exploited under the auspices of love, family, and tradition.
Holiday traditions such as gift giving are fun and therefore hard to change; but it is possible to restore the real meaning of Christmas while still exchanging presents. This December, implement something new in your home…Nativity Gifts instead of Christmas Gifts. Explain how Our Lord’s Nativity had only the bare necessities, and then show your children how to give these to others.
Last January, after adding up the total cost spent on holiday gift giving, my brothers and sisters decided to look for alternatives. After all, Christ was born in a simple manger with few material possessions. Mary and Joseph did not spend the days leading up to Jesus’ birth shopping. We wanted to find ways our children could celebrate Christmas in a way more evocative of that First Christmas.
We started to research organizations offering opportunities to buy the simple necessities for people truly in need. The gifts had to be easy to purchase and at the same time highlight the differences between wants and needs.
The Christian Children’s Fund Organization Gift Catalog (www.christianchildrensfund.org) will let you purchase a pair of goats for a family in Ethiopia, or some pigs for three families in Uganda. Both of these gifts give families food and a chance for real income. In Brazil $36.00 will purchase one family an orchard, and $31.00 will buy a water analysis kit so children don’t get sick from drinking dirty water.
Another organization, World Vision, (www.worldvision.org) offers four chickens to a family for only 50.00; $30.00 will buy them five ducks. $40.00 will purchase a fishing set so families in places like the Philippines and Angola can put food on the table. They also can provide safe drinking water through treatment tablets. One year of these treatments only cost $50.00 and will benefit 250 children.
Heifer Internationals’ catalog (www.heifer.org) sells small animals like bees, geese, ducks, chickens, and llamas for gift giving; many cost as little as $20.00. In addition to livestock they offer farming implements, wells, and other gift baskets of love. Barbara Bush, our former First Lady, is quoted on their website as saying,
"For sixty years Heifer International has brought dignity and self-reliance to families in need all over the world with its brilliantly simple solution — livestock and training for food and income."
Your family can buy a piece of the manger this year. These three organization’s catalogs alone illustrate the enormous call for just the basic necessities in many parts of the world today. Teach them how easily they can make a difference in the lives of others this holiday season.
Go online and view the gift catalogs from these organizations, or find an organization of your choice. Use the catalogs as a starting point for discussing the differences between wants and needs. Our family may want to have a new game table, but do we really need it? Can we get by with only three new gifts instead of seven? Maybe the monies spent on other gifts for our family would be better spent fulfilling the needs of others. Then choose a country or a group and decide which gift to give them…which Nativity Gift you want someone to have.
Just as Our Savior’s birth gave hope to us, May this Christmas season bring hope to others. As it is written in Matthew 25,
"For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and
You gave Me drink …whatever you did for one of these
least brothers of Mine, you did for Me."
Teach your family how to best say "Happy Birthday Lord".
Copyright 2009 Carol S. Bannon
About the Author
Carol Bannon currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She is a wife, mother, grandmother to seven, substitute teacher, and an active supporter of the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI). Carol is the author of Handshake from Heaven and Our Family’s Christmas Elf. She and her husband love to spend time boating on Cape Cod and traveling to new harbors.