Day 3 of Advent: Giving to others

Image Today is #givingTuesday, a day begun to encourage giving back to others during the holiday season.

So although #givingTuesday is a secular movement, should we as Christians join in? My opinion is yes! And not only today but as many days as possible.

There has been a recent trend (one that I like!) these past several years among Christians to place more emphasis on giving to others over materialism. One example of this is evident in popular blogs. Many Christian bloggers have spoken out against Santa and have advocated doing an Advent calendar. (While I love the Advent calendar, I am not one of those, though, who believe you must do away with Santa.) They have also suggested limiting gifts to four for the children (one they want, one they need, one to wear, one to read). You also see this trend in businesses, for example TOMS, that promise with every purchase something equivalent is given to those in need elsewhere. These are just a few examples.

The story of Christmas prompts us to give to others like Christ gave to us. We don't often read Philippians 2:1-11 during the Christmas season, but we should. Starting with verse 3, Paul writes, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others." Paul then gives the example of Christ, who though he had everything gave it all up, "made himself nothing," to come as a baby and later to the cross so that we might be reconciled to God. Jesus' example of sacrificing everything in order to give himself for us demands that we as his followers "count others more significant" than ourselves.

So how can we participate in #givingTuesday and giving throughout Christmas?

1. Make a donation to your favorite charity, ministry, or missions agency in honor or in memory of someone. My grandmother passed away this past February, so this will be our first Christmas without her. So this Christmas I will make a donation in her memory. Or maybe you have a relative who is difficult to buy for or who really doesn't need anything. A donation to an organization would be the perfect gift. Ideas are: The International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, Compassion International, the Woman's Missionary Union, Make A Wish Foundation, St. Jude's Hospital, your local Baptist association, your state Baptist state board of missions, the Ronald McDonald House, and E3 Ministries. This is only the beginning of a long list, but it's a good place to start.

2. Make a purchase that gives back to someone. If you really need to give a gift to someone, consider purchasing one that helps someone else in need. Here are some of my favorites. 1. The first is Luyando. Luyando was begun by a young woman who was in my discipleship group at church and whose family I lived with during my last year at Beeson Divinity School. Luyando helps children living in poverty in Zambia through a kids club, feeding program, and (coming soon) an orphanage. And of course Christ is glorified and the gospel is made known. Luyando has for sell t-shirts, and the proceeds go back to helping fund Luyando! So you can give a really cool t-shirt and help kids in Zambia. (Picture at top is taken from the Luyando website.) 2. WorldCrafts. WorldCrafts "develops sustainable, fair-trade businesses among impoverished people around the world." The products that WorldCrafts sell are made by artisans from around the world, most of whom have come out of the sex trade and prostitution. By purchasing their products, you are not only giving them a job and income but dignity and hope. You are also helping them stay in a place where they will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. So not only do you get a really cool gift but you are giving back to others. 3. Freeset. Freeset is one of the artisan groups whom WorldCrafts sells. But you can also purchase directly from Freeset. Freeset employs women who were once trapped in Kolkata, India's sex trade. By purchasing their items, you are helping free women from sex trafficking in India.

3. Buy gifts for others in need. One of my favorite things this time of the year is Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. While the deadline has already passed for this year, you can participate next year! These boxes are filled with presents that are sent to children all around the world. Another option is taking a child from the angel trees that you find in malls, department stores, and independent stores like Walmart. Something I am doing this year is buying for a family in need at my church. Sometimes all it takes is opening our eyes and ears to needy families within our own communities. At the Hispanic church my husband and I serve is a very needy family with three boys. We will be giving to them this year. A last option is to contact your local homeless shelters, Christian rehab facilities or orphanages that might have families with young children. Find out if those children need gifts. In Birmingham we have the Jimmie Hale Mission Center, Pathways Home, The Lovelady Center, just to name a few.

I hope in the spirit of Jesus Christ in his great gift to us that we will find ways to give to others and to consider them and their needs more significant than our own this Christmas.