My Christmas Consumption Issues
Each year during the Advent, I get the uneasy feeling my role as consumer begins to trump my identity as Christian. I found a way to realign myself.
I want my primary identity to be as follower of Jesus Christ. And when the Christmas gift-giving time of year comes around, I’m tempted toward two less than helpful alternatives.
One temptation is to let myself slip into finding my satisfaction in being a consumer. With all the gift-giving and receiving traditions and holiday habits in my life, I’m sometimes tempted to think my joy comes from consuming. While we all consume to some degree, I’m tempted toward excess.
The other temptation is to reject consumption entirely. I’m tempted to “check out” and deny all holiday traditions related to purchasing, selling, and gift lists. Yielding to this temptation makes me unsocialable and bereft of much holiday spirit.
Falling to either temptation is detrimental. Neither brings joy.
My Christmas Gifts are Forgotten
I was thinking recently about gift-giving choices last Christmas. I found I could not remember a single gift I had given my wife or daughters. None was apparently significant enough for me to remember.
I’m betting if I asked my wife and daughters what I gave, they would have a hard time remembering too. It seems my gifts are easily forgotten.
I’ve been looking over the Christmas lists I have for this year. I’m guessing that, again, most of what I buy will not be remembered next Christmas. What I give will probably be appreciated in the moment. But little will bring lasting satisfaction.
My Christmas Alternative
The only gift I remember giving last year was to someone I have not yet met – a young girl in Ghana.
My brother, sister, mother, and I decided that instead buying gifts for one another, we’d all contribute $50 to program called “Compassion for Africa.” The program is directed by my colleague at Northwest Nazarene University, Joe Gorman.
Last Christmas, my mother, brother, sister and I bought pigs for a few girls.
In Ghana, young girls have to pay for their education. If they own pigs, they can make money by selling piglets. Without this income, their fathers will often trade the girls to an older man (who has other wives) in marriage.
Suicide Instead of Marriage
One of my former graduate students, Frank Mills, is a pastor who works with a volunteer team of people helping young girls in Ghana. Here’s a story Frank sent just recently of a young girl who didn’t have pigs.
“On the 12th November, 2011, Adiza’s father forced her into a commercial van. He asked the driver to speed so that the father could get the girl to her new husband as quickly as possible.”
“While the van was going very fast, the girl pretended she wanted some fresh air. She opened the window and then jumped through it. She died on the spot. This one is too horrible for me, because I knew Adiza personally.”
“This is the fourth time that I have heard of a girl taking her life because she didn’t want to marry an old man. Usually the girls have no choice. They must accept the man chosen by their parents or family elders.”
“In Adiza’s case, we had approached her parents. We promised to help her learn a trade and provide her with two pigs for her future needs. But her father was more interested in quickly giving her away into marriage in return for four cows. This is so sad. I cried when Adiza was being buried.”
“We currently have 16 girls on the needy list. We have interviewed all 16 and wish we were able to help them this Christmas. Ten of them will be fine with just two pigs each. Six will need to be enrolled in some kind of vocation, such as sewing (it costs $100 for a sewing machine here).”
Want to Give a Meaningful Gift this Christmas?
Giving to girls in Ghana makes a difference. If you, your family, or friends are thinking about an alternative to some of your usual gift-giving traditions, you might do something like my family did.
If you’re interested in this pig project or want to buy a sewing machine, you can send Joe Gorman a check. Make it to “Compassion for Africa,” and send it to this address: 412 West Bayhill Drive, Nampa, ID 83686.
What’s cool about Compassion for Africa is that 100% of all monies given go directly to the project for which you designate them. There is no administrative overhead as any travel, transport, printing, postage or other costs. And Joe is directly involved, including often paying from his own funds to travel to Ghana and other African sites in need.
By the way, if you want to see some of what Compassion for Africa has been doing, go to www.joegorman.net. What you’ll find should be helpful, although Joe wants to build a better website. Let me know if you want to make building a website your alternative Christmas gift this year.
Give Something Different
I recommend joining with family members to give an alternative Christmas gift this year. Most of us already consume too much stuff. Besides, no one wants to unwrap another Christmas sweater or necktie!