December 2009 Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Article What is on your Christmas wish list this year? What do you hope to find under the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? At the heart of the Christmas season, for many 21st Century Americans, is the tradition of exchanging gifts with those we love. This is a labor of love for some, and an overwhelming burden for others. In far too many instances, however, it becomes the focus of the season.
This year, at Saint Peter, we are talking about how to recover the center of Christmas – how to make it a more Christ-centered experience. One strategy we are considering has to do with de-emphasizing the exchange of gifts, and re-emphasizing the spiritual dimensions of this season. Our hope is that this season, which celebrates the one who gave everything for us, might become a time when we can honor him by giving of ourselves to those who are in need. As you make your Christmas giving plans this year, consider adopting one of these strategies as a family:
- Establish a budget for Christmas gifts, and contribute an equal amount to an organization that is involved with Christian ministry.
- Or scale back your giving from last year’s level, and contribute the difference.
- Or, for those on your gift list who might appreciate it, give a gift in their name.
There are a number of worthy organizations that we have been supporting in recent past, through Saint Peter. In the following list, the first five are ministries that we visited on our June, 2009 trip to Tanzania. The last four are local ministry initiatives. If you visit their web sites, you’ll find that most of them offer the opportunity to sponsor a specific action or procedure or individual.
Selian Lutheran Hospital www.selianlh.habari.co.tz Plaster House http://site.plasterhouse.org TAMIHA Orphanage www.tamiha.org MaaSAE Lutheran Girls’ School www.operationbootstrapafrica.org Heifer Project, International www.heifer.org Habitat for Humanity www.habitat.org Lutheran Family Services www.lfsco.org Lutheran Refugee Services www.lfsco.org/programs_refugee.php Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp www.rainbowtrail.org
According to a very old legend, in the 4th Century there lived a Christian bishop who had a heart for poor people. He was especially concerned about young women whose families didn’t have enough money for a dowry (these women often starved or were sold into slavery). He would throw a bag of coins throw through the hole in the roof that let the cooking smoke out. Caring for these neighbors in need was his way of honoring Christ. By the way, his name was Nicholas. The many stories about his care for children and the poor caused people to think of him as a saint.
Perhaps the story of Saint Nicholas (whose “Saint Day” is December 6) could inspire us to be generous, as well, in our attempts to honor the one who is born among us every Christmas Eve.
God’s peace to you all,
David J. Risendal, Pastor