Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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NATIONAL BISHOP'S TURN
The Giving Season
At this time of year as we watch and wait through the season of Advent, it is natural to start thinking about the giving season of Christmas. It is easy to get caught up in the hype we see on TV and in all the extra flyers we receive with the paper, but when I refer to Christmas as a giving season I am not referring to the highly commercialized and extremely expensive holiday that stores start to promote many months in advance. I am, of course, talking about the gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.
When Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah he used the description …Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). God’s message of justice and peace is perfectly illustrated in the life and witness of Jesus. We are called to follow Jesus in that same life, …to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
How might our celebration of Christmas look different if we were to take seriously welcoming the Prince of Peace? How might our giving, in honour of the gift we have received, look different? I know that changing long-standing and cherished family traditions is difficult, but is there some small way, some starter point that we could consider?
Here are some things I have been thinking about:
• Scale down on spending on gifts and the costs of entertaining and make a major donation to help eliminate hunger through a local food bank or other local program that assists those in need, or consider making a donation to CLWR (clwr.donorshops.com) to assist globally.
• Donate some of your time to make sure others have a Christmas celebration by volunteering to serve food at a shelter, put together a food hamper for those in need, collect gifts for children who will go without.
• Consider a Gift from the Heart (clwr.donorshops.com/products/giftsfromtheheart.php). I love giving my Dad goats for Christmas every year! And he loves giving them to me.
• Think about whether there might be someone in your neighbourhood or congregation who could use some company during this time of the year and invite them to join your family at Christmas. One of the most wonderful Christmases my family had recently was when we invited a grad student from Africa to come and join our family celebration. To watch his joy as he experienced our traditions, to talk about our faith, share favourite food, lifted all our hearts and made Christmas come alive in a new way.
• Make a planned gift so that your spirit of giving can continue even when your time on earth is done. I’ve made the church an equal recipient with my other heirs. I’ve also designated a life insurance policy as a gift to the church. What ministry is your passion that you would want to honour them with a planned gift?
• Ensure that scripture and prayer are part of your Christmas celebrations, helping everyone you love remember the “reason for the season.”
My prayer for you this Christmas is that your heart would overflow with gratitude for the gift of Jesus, and that gratitude would be expressed in words and deeds during the Christmas season and for all the new year!
Canada Lutheran, Dec 2014
Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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