What’d you give?!

Rev. Courtney Richards | December 15, 2014

The alternative giving display at Harvard Avenue Christian Church. Photo: Courtney Richards/Harvard Ave Christian Church

The alternative giving display at Harvard Avenue Christian Church. Photo: Courtney Richards/Harvard Ave Christian Church

“What did you give?”
“What’d you get? What’d YOU get? What’d you GET?”

Isn’t that often the refrain? At birthdays, Christmas, whatever gift giving occasion there may be … we see the size of the box, or hear the rattle, or wonder at the shape and we always want to know what someone gets.

But NOT THIS YEAR. This year … right now … I’d like to know what you give.

Can you give yourself a break?
Should you give someone another chance?
What if we give up on keeping up?

This Advent, what can you give that brings HOPE … PEACE … JOY … LOVE … into the world?

As Tony Campolo said recently, “It’s that time of year where we work ourselves into a frenzy to buy all of the things that nobody needs to give to the people who already have everything.”

‘Alternative gifts’ are a great way to give a gift to someone you care about … without actually having to guess size, or preference, or even wrap anything. Don’t most of us, in our own circles, really have what we need? What if we gave to someone who DOES need tangible things … in honor of someone who’s inspired us to do so?

Wouldn’t your sister, the nurse, love knowing that an expectant mother received a birthing kit so that she and her child can stay healthy at delivery? ($35)

Your grandson the constant gamer would probably think it’s cool that kids in a developing nation got educational toys on his behalf. ($25)

Know how much your mom loves digging in her garden? A family in East Asia could start their own kitchen garden because of your gift. ($50)

Those colleagues or vendors that you want to give to, but don’t know what on earth they could possibly need, would really be moved to know that a start-up loan for a small business was given in their honor. ($100)

In our middle/upper-middle class suburban congregation, who the heck needs another thing? Nobody, that’s who. But who needs to share some of what they have with people who need it more than they do? All of us. So this year, we’ve used the CWS Best Gift Catalog to take a step – or several – in that direction.

We chose about 15 gifts, in amounts from $15 to $100, then created simple gift cards (“a gift of ____ has been given in your honor”) for givers to take for the honoree and a receipt for the church to know how to specify contributions to CWS. A table is on prominent display in our commons (gathering area) throughout Advent. The conversation around the table has been as wonderful as the gifts (and givers) themselves: ‘What a fun thing!’ ‘We’ve never done anything like this!’ ‘This will be great for us to give to each other when we go to dinner!’ Grandparents selected gifts for grandchildren and then the children even drew pictures on the back of the receipt!

Simply select your gift. Leave the receipt with your payment. Take the gift card (already in an envelope!) to give or send, to let your special recipient know of the good done in their honor.

As we said in our promotion: “Change lives around the world, in honor of those at home.” You will make it more of a holy-day than you can possibly imagine.

As Connections Pastor at Tulsa’s thriving Harvard Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Rev. Courtney Richards helps guests, regular participants and members make connections with each other, the community, and the work of their own spiritual practice. This year, her ministry of hospitality, church growth and community development includes introducing Harvard Avenue to ‘alternative giving’ and the CWS Best Gift Catalog.