Megan's Favorite Things Show
The bottom line is finding gifts that are meaningful. What makes gifts meaningful? What's meaningful for one person is not exciting to another person. I love making gifts for people, but not everyone wants a collage of pictures of our favorite memories. Not everyone appreciates the wonder of hand-made socks (its like wearing love on your feet).
One of the scriptures for this Sunday is Isaiah 2:1-5, which says that Jesus will "judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, either shall they learn war any more."
That Isaiah passage talks about turning from war and working together to provide for each other. Biblical Peace (Shalom) is a state where people are living in community and providing for each other, where no one is grasping for more than they need, and where no one has to fight for what they need.
So if we insist on giving gifts at Christmas (and I do love Christmas presents), the question becomes: Can we give gifts in a way that points to the gift God gave us in Jesus? I think so. We can give gifts that show love and affection (not just shopping ability), and we can buy gifts that are ethically produced. If is difficult to find gifts that are made in environmentally and socially ethical ways, but every little bit makes a difference. I've been doing some research over the past few months, so I have a few suggestions:
Do a book exchange. Have you read a book that you absolutely loved? Give a copy (or even better - your copy) to a friend or family member.
Make presents! Do you knit? Or scrapbook? Build stuff? Families can make Christmas cards together with whatever paper and magazines you have lying around.
Do something as a family or with a group of friends instead of giving presents. Go on a trip to DC or get tickets to a Broadway show. Memories (hopefully) last longer than most things, and if you have a bad memory you can take pictures.
Patagonia is a clothing company that I really like. They are pricey but they have good sales, and 1% of their profits go to environmental conservation. Some of their products are made of recycled fibers, organic cotton, and other environmentally friendly materials (ask me about my recycled shirts).
No Sweat is a company that makes sneakers and t-shirts that are guaranteed to be union made. They also use some organic cotton, comes from Bethlehem and is grown by both Palestinians and Israelis. They also sell vegan shoes and belts.
American Apparel is another company that promises fair labor. They also use some organic cotton. Warning: their pictures are kind of racy but nowhere near as bad as Abercrombie & Fitch.
Equal Exchange sells fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate. We sell a lot of this at our church!
Ten Thousand Villages distributes fairly made goods that benefit people in developing companies. There is a store off Main Street in Newark that sells some of this stuff.
Donate an animal to a family in need through Heifer International. Buy a bucket of chicken and feed your family for an hour. Buy a flock of chickens for a family and gift them a source of protein and income for years.
Sponsor a child through Compassion International or Food for the Hungry. About $30 a month can make a huge difference in a child's life. (Sponsoring a child has had an amazing impact on my life).
Do a gift exchange. If you have a lot of people in your family or group of friends, draw names instead of getting gifts for everyone. You can also have a gift swap/steal with a theme - this year I'm doing an eco-friendly gift swap with some friends. We hope to have fun and get ideas for ways to be more conscious about our habits.