I’ve been challenged to dig into the meaning of the Christmas story more than I previously have. And the more I do, the more I feel that the modern world (including the Christian one) has gone “off message.” Why did Christ come? Why did he come as a baby? How did he impact the community he was born into? And what could it possibly mean for us today beyond the tinsel and the mistletoe?
I’m not finding answers to these questions in toy store aisles, tables laden with Christmas food, and decorations hanging around my house; as much as I do like those things. But when I sink into the story, Christmas displays the generosity of God; how he emptied himself into humanity. As Saint Francis said, “The incarnation is already redemption;” a gift given freely and graciously. More on that in the coming weeks.
What do we do with the gift?
One organization and movement that has helped me answer that question in a practical way is @TearAustralia.
“It was 1994. Bryan Adams' “Please Forgive Me” was number 1 on the Aussie charts, Christopher Skase was arrested in Spain, and phone numbers were about to get an extra digit.
In Melbourne, TEAR's then National Director Steve Bradbury was becoming increasingly frustrated at the growing commercialization of Christmas.
Reflecting on his feelings at the time, Steve said: “It seemed to me that in our largely post-Christian society, Christmas celebrations had deteriorated into over-the-top, materialistic pigouts and that this was something we in the church ought to creatively resist.”
Inspired and agitated, Steve and a small team created an educational resource to put the focus of Christmas back on the call of Christ to serve those facing poverty. This became TEAR’s Useful Gifts Catalogue.
Considering what Jesus would like for his birthday and the types of gifts that would bring him pleasure were the thoughts that ultimately prompted the first catalogue.
Steve said: “Jesus told his first followers that if they gave food to a hungry person or water to a thirsty person, it was as though they gave it to him.
Jesus is saying that he wants us to express our love for him by giving practical gifts to those who are in need.”
While the catalogue concept has been adopted enthusiastically by many other agencies and organizations, it holds a very significant place in the heart of TEAR. A lot has changed since 1994, but the challenge remains. How do we, as the church, resist the relentless consumerism that continues to overshadow the Christmas message? How does our giving reflect God’s heart for the poor?
TEAR Australia remains committed to the idea that giving more “stuff” isn't what the world needs. Giving more usefully is.” – Ben Allsop, TEAR's Fundraising Coordinator.
Giving more stuff isn’t what the world needs. Giving more usefully is; creating space for radical generosity that reflects the original outpouring of God into humanity. Giving for gift's sake is fast becoming the Christmas way. A transforming Advent consideration could be this: Let’s reclaim the original redemptive nature of Christmas (Immanuel: God with us) and seek to give in the spirit of restoration and generosity; for us, our loved ones, and for those who need it most.
Today's Advent Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10, Luke 10:21-24.
Written by @Lizzy.Milani.