Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday! We’re officially full-swing into the holiday season now with the baking, shopping, decorating, etc. – how do you feel about it so far? Are you already wishing that you could catch your breath? Have you re-assessed your activity for the season? Are you able to keep your focus on that Star up in the sky and not on the mass of people between you and the cash register or the sea of brake lights in front of you? Do you feel the anticipation of the day of birth up ahead? (I believe Michelle feels it!) It is a day the world will celebrate…whether they see the newborn swaddled there in the manger or not. We’ve been talking about simplicity this season – how much simpler can it get than a smelly barn, a few dirty animals, a scratchy manger, and some swaddling clothes?
Why a Simpler Christmas?1
- A simpler Christmas leads to freedom. A consumer Christmas leads to stress and debt.
- Simplicity leads to generosity.
- It leaves room for more joy. It is such a joy to get the burden of stuff off our shoulders.
- It builds relationships. We are told thousands of times every day by commercial advertising that we will find meaning and happiness through stuff. Voluntary Simplicity says we will find happiness and meaning in life through relationships – within ourselves, with others, with the Earth and with God.
- It leads to a whole life of simplicity. Celebrating is one part of a total life of integrity.
- It promotes justice. By using only our fair share of Earth’s resources, we leave some for others around the globe and for future generations. “Live Simply that Others May Simply Live.”
- It Cares for Creation. A simple life is an Earth-friendly life.
“We live in a world gone mad with consumerism. Within weeks, the stores will be filled with holiday music, gorgeous decorations, and enticing goods begging to be bought for gifts. This is our culture—the culture of desire. Will we succumb to the call of television, newspaper and magazine advertising? Or will we, this year, do what Buddhists and Jesus advise: stand apart from desire, detach, ponder the circumstances, do not tumble head-long into instant gratification, do not store up your treasure, but do consciously choose a simpler way. Let us be a people who embrace voluntary simplicity!
Can we have a wonderful holiday season and still be people committed to voluntary simplicity? I believe that we can by being creative consumers and creative hosts. As far as decorations are concerned, perhaps you use your Christmas decorations year after year. Many of us have made things with our own hands to give as gifts. The goal is to give simple gifts. If we do not have the talent (or ability) to make things—and I do realize that much of what we can make can now be bought more cheaply—we could consider… support[ing] local artisans. Or we could shop from catalogs that give back to the communities? These are gifts that give…
May voluntary simplicity be our mantra this holiday season!”2
Speaking of gifts that give, there are some good organizations out there that give back to communities in need. Whether by donating or shopping through these websites, you are giving to great causes. Try www.agreatergift.org where they offer free trade items and foods that improve the villages/communities they come from. Also www.thehungersite.com - this site allows you to support great causes simply by clicking free links every day or you can purchase various items in their store (many of which are also fair trade and very reasonably priced). Samaritan’s Purse offers a Christmas catalog where you choose what your donations go toward. Check out www.samaritanspurse.com and look for the “2006 Christmas gift catalog” link on their homepage. If you know of any other good fair trade sites or a great charitable site for others to shop through for the holidays, please let us know. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birth than to be generous and serve others!
Another great way to serve this holiday season is to give to a wonderful organization called ChildVoice International. Susan Arico sent out an email recently which I’d like to include here:
I thought you might be interested in this Christmas time opportunity…
ChildVoice International is currently supporting 150 child mothers (female children who were abducted into the rebel army, forced to become “wives” of commanders, and escaped from captivity with one or more children) and their 250 young children in northern Uganda. This Christmas, ChildVoice is seeking to supply Christmas gifts package for these child mothers and their children.
If you are interested in participating or finding out more, the attached flyer (PDF) supplies information about the specific of these shoe-box sized gifts.
In addition, please note that all items included in the packs should be new as used items need to be fumigated before going into Uganda which ChildVoice cannot do. The last day they are taking boxes is Friday, Dec 8th.
We’ll be collecting any “shoebox gifts” this Friday as well as next week. This week our topic of discussion will be “What ideas do you have for simpler gift giving?” I can’t wait to hear them!
1 From the Alternatives for Simple Living website http://www.simpleliving.net/main/custom.asp?recid=1
2 From the website http://www.uufairhaven.org/Ser2006Nov05.htm