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Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. Luke 6:38
Several years ago, our son gave us a great gift. Frustrated with holiday shopping, he announced that he was bowing out of the Christmas business. He then requested a list of charities he would donate to on our behalf. We would then reciprocate in kind. We floated the idea by our daughter and soon-to-be husband. Both undergraduate students, they were short on time and money so quickly embraced the new plan. The idea was enticing. No more mall crawls or Black Fridays. No more fretting over finding the right present or one that at least wouldn’t require the hassle of an exchange. We were all in!
We have kept the tradition ever since, deciding together on a donation that will serve those in need because of natural disasters or other calamities, or simply giving out of our collective concern about poverty, disease, or environmental conservation. Thus, we decided one year on an organization serving those who had suffered the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and another year gave to the victims of the fires in Colorado. This year, I suspect our dollars will go to those aiding refugees fleeing the violence in their Central American countries.
Giving to others who are truly in need is fitting for a season focused on the great gift of love embodied in the person of Jesus. While we all donate to charitable organizations throughout the year, doing so in concert with one another brings a sense of shared commitment and an enhanced understanding of Advent hope and generosity. It also allows more time for the kind of quiet reflection that is a cherished aspect of the season.
This year, with the arrival of a baby granddaughter, the tradition is shifting a bit. We want her to experience the joy of opening presents on Christmas morning, so are returning to a gift exchange. We also made a mutual decision to keep it simple, and to maintain our collective outreach to others. As she grows with this tradition, my hope is that she will come to an appreciation of giving to others and how what we receive in return is a gift beyond measure.
Kathy Hendricks is author of several books on family, faith formation, and spirituality, including Seeking Spiritual Balance in an Off-Kilter World. She is a spiritual director and offers retreats and other presentations for parish groups, religious educators, and parents around the country. She is a member of St. Timothy’s parish and lives with her husband, Ron, in Castle Rock.