Make Christmas More About Giving, Less About Consumption


Christmas is not your birthday--unless you're Jimmy Buffet, Clara Barton or Jesus, that is. But you already knew that.

Now that Thanksgiving is in our rearview mirror and we're headed full speed towards Dec. 25, everyone's getting religious. For some of us, we'll have perfect attendance at church over the next few weeks while we hear stories about the manger, some wise men, a star and some shepherds.

For others of us, we'll become devout adherents to the great American religion called consumerism. We'll spend time and money like no other time of year as we shop for those we love and those we feel obligated to buy for. We'll also make our wish lists asking others to pick the right present for us to eagerly unwrap.

But what if we used this collective attention to focus on larger problems? What if we directed our energy and money this time of year towards greater social ills and problems?

In this excerpt from my new book, New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours, I offer some practical suggestions for ways that anyone--especially Christians--can use this time of giving to truly focus on others, making sure that we stay a little less greedy as we try our best to remember the reason for the season, as they say.

If the average person spends nearly $1,000 each December, what would happen if we decreased our budgets by just 10 percent, and gave that difference to charity? We'd generate over $40 billion for nonprofits and worthy causes. That's change-the-world kind of money.

But it's not easy to break old habits, especially ones that involve swiping our credit cards and dishing out presents to people we love the most. Such a large movement begins with very small steps.

This chapter is full of ways to make Christmas not your birthday. Incorporate just one of them into your holiday traditions this year, and make this holiday more about giving and less about shopping.

--Want Differently. Eliminate one item on your annual wish list and put in its place something that benefits a charitable organization. Turn that trendy shirt into a yearly membership. Exchange that shiny gadget for a flat donation to a charity of your choice. Trade that new game for food for the hungry. Instead of asking for clothes to replace the ones that are perfectly fine, ask your parents to buy clothes for someone else. Instead of requesting the gadget that will be outdated by June, ask your spouse to send that money overseas. Instead of it being all about you, make it about someone else.

--Decorate Wisely. When you pull that tangled ball of Christmas lights out of the attic, make sure you're doing what you can to conserve energy and natural resources. Regulate all of your holiday lights with timers. Use LED light strands instead of conventional sets. (Light-Emitting Diode bulbs last 10 times longer than CFLs and are cool-running and brighter shining.) Store everything in recycled boxes. Re-use an artificial tree or make sure you purchase one from an environmentally friendly tree farm. Skip the Mylar plastic tinsel. With a few simple steps, you can keep your house bright, and green, this winter.

--Give Twice. If you've never donated in someone's name or given livestock, this holiday season is the perfect time to start. As you give gifts with your specific tradition, find ones that donate a portion of the sticker price to a worthy cause. Begin family traditions that value sacrifice over consumption and giving over getting. You can spend the amount you planned to, but direct it toward things like protecting a child for a year, reuniting 11 families, or feeding a village. Visit NewDayRevolution.com for charitable ideas.

--Holiday Recycling. Whenever it's time to pack up the decorations and relatives, make sure you do so in an environmentally healthy way. If you bought a real tree and you're not able to plant it in your yard, check to see if there is a Christmas tree recycling center near you. Before tossing out the packaging and boxes that hid your gifts until it was time to open them, look to see if there are places that can reuse these resources. Gather the rest up, and make sure as much as possible lands in recycling bins instead of garbage dumps.

New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours is co-authored by Sam Davidson and Stephen Moseley, founders of CoolPeopleCare. The book has over 100 practical ideas on ways you can make a difference as part of your daily routine, and also comes with a beginner's glossary for those new to the world of social change.

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Tags: Christmas, Sam Davidson, Stewardship, Theology