by Father Mark Goldasich
Just think: Ten Mondays from now, we’ll be celebrating Christmas!
That realization probably prompted either absolute panic (if you’re an adult) or absolute glee (if you’re a kid). Christmas on a Monday this year will have many priests reaching for oxygen masks in anticipation of the marathon of Masses that weekend, since the Fourth “Week” of Advent this year is actually just a day!
Much of the stress and panic associated with Christmas has to do with outsized expectations and exhausted wallets. Sometimes, the last person thought of in the season is actually the guest of honor: Jesus.
I’d like to propose that we change at least some of that this year. It’s still early enough to do some planning on how to reintroduce Christ into our holiday preparations.
First and foremost, let’s make it a point to imitate Jesus, who gave himself as the real Christmas gift to the world. Before any gift lists are compiled or celebrations penciled into our calendars, why not sit down today and determine how we can give of ourselves to others, especially the poor and lonely, in the weeks ahead.
There’s a temptation to believe that our small efforts of charity don’t amount to a hill of beans in the big scheme of things. I’ll bet that 10-year-old Jackson Rogers would have a different take on that. Here’s his story:
Jackson took on a fundraising challenge in 2006 at First Presbyterian Church, where he was a member.
“My pastor gave me a hundred dollars and told me to do something good to help someone,” said Jackson. He and a few other congregants accepted the pastor’s challenge to use the money for good and then report back to the church.
“I was discouraging him from volunteering,” said Jackson’s father, “because I didn’t know what the pastor intended. But he pulled away from me and ran down there.”
Jackson knew he wanted to help a homeless family. But he wasn’t sure how, so he asked his dad. They came up with a letter-writing campaign asking for donations to raise $50,000 to build a house through Habitat for Humanity. Jackson then wrote a letter in his own handwriting on notebook paper.
“I used the hundred dollars to buy stamps and envelopes,” he said. Then he sent out the letters to friends and family.
One woman was so touched by his letter that she passed it on to several of her friends and colleagues. Soon, people from Tennessee, Virginia and Idaho were sending in checks. The 170 people who responded contributed a total of $43,000. When the congregation at First Presbyterian learned that their little miracle-worker was $7,000 short of his goal, they chipped in the rest.
“A little person can do something really good,” said Jackson’s mother. “You don’t have to wait to be an adult.” (Adapted from “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
The life of Jesus changed the history of the world. Jackson changed the life of a Habitat family, his church family and his correspondents. What great things as individuals might we be capable of changing in our world?
In these 10 weeks before Christmas, let’s resolve to shake up our holiday prep. Here might be some of the ways:
- Meet with family and friends and discuss how your gift giving may have gotten out of hand. Agree to a simpler and saner gift exchange.
- Go through your home between now and Thanksgiving and gather items to donate to a charity — from clothes to toys, and anything in between. This will make room for the “new stuff” that Christmas will inevitably bring.
- Plan as a family to do some volunteer project before Christmas. See page 4 of this issue for a slew of wonderful opportunities from Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
- Start filling a box a month — adding just one item each day — of food and nonperishable items to donate at the end of the month to a local food pantry.
- Buy some Christmas cards to distribute to residents of a local nursing home as the holidays approach. Be sure to include a little note or treat inside.
- Designate a piggy bank as a “Jesus Jar.” Fill it up with coins until near Christmas and use that money to shower a poor family with gifts.
Be creative this year in making Christmas a time to be savored, rather than dreaded. Start today and avoid the rush.
After all, there are just 65 giving days till Christmas!