I’m working on the Pentecost 2008 edition of Congregation Connections, the 12-page biannual resource that links ELCA World Hunger, worship and congregational life. A two-page spread in this edition looks at ways to help congregations, families, and individuals make plans in the summer in order to enjoy a simpler and more meaningful Advent and Christmas. This will morph into a summer article for Seeds for the Parish.

A big part of that planning centers on Christmas giving viz-a-viz Christmas presents. Please share your alternative-giving ideas, suggestions, and experience with me by commenting here or e-mailing hunger@elca.org

Here are snippets from the Congregation Connections for a start. The sentences in bold signal where I’m especially looking for comments. Rest assured that ELCA Good Gifts (World Hunger and beyond) and LWR Fair Trade Projects are lifted up as key alternative-giving strategies.
God bless us, everyone! Sue

Help participants initiate conversations about Christmas giving and share their plans with family and friends.

  • Think about Christmas-present giving. What do participants feel is “expected” of them? What was their all-time favorite gift? What gifting strategies have they employed in their family (e.g., drawing names)?
  • Brainstorm alternatives to store-bought presents. Strategize antidotes to “too much.”
  • Make a pact to give up mall and mega-mart shopping during Advent.
  • Encourage participants to let family and friends know what they are giving this Christmas (e.g., prayer, gift-donations, gifts of time or food). It is also respectful to share ideas about what you’d like to receive. “Don’t give me anything,” for example, is not as helpful as “Please don’t give me a thing…I’d much rather receive a gift-donation, the gift of your time, or a hand-written letter.” Consider sending an ELCA Good Gifts catalog to folks who want to remember you at Christmas.

“I WANT SOMETHING TO WRAP*” GIFT IDEAS (Please share your alternative gift ideas…whether they can be wrapped or not.)
Light a candle and say a prayer for your gift recipient(s), then wrap up the candle and a copy of the prayer.
For ELCA Good Gifts, wrap up a representative stuffed animal for the youngest member of the family to receive your gift donation to God’s Global Barnyard. Likewise, wrap small-and-useful representations of other gift donations (e.g., a dust pan for a gift donation to ELCA Disaster Response).
Box and wrap a card or hand-written letter to announce your gift donation.
Wrap up consumables, something that can be readily eaten or used (e.g., Fair Trade chocolate and coffee, homemade treats, postage stamps).
Give pre-owned or no-buy gifts: share a gift from your home (e.g., dish, photo, ornament); personalize free calendars with important dates; wrap up garage-sale finds.

Thanks! Sue-s