Black Friday greetings to everyone! Today is the day when millions of Americans go shopping, the media reports on Americans going shopping, and I begin my annual ritual of whining about how consumeristic Christmas has become. I moan about the spiritually-stupefying reminders of “X shopping days until Christmas” for us to buy stuff for “someone who has everything.” I complain that the contemporary celebration of Christmas was invented by advertisers seeking to boost profits (Harvard historian L.E. Schmidt in his book Consumer Rites backs me up :)). In my more excessive moments I even suggest that if you rearrange just one letter in “SANTA” you get . . . . wait for it . . . . SATAN. (Just kidding—mostly.)
Even if you are not as extreme as I am, perhaps you are also troubled—at least a little—by the paradox of celebrating the birth of Jesus by exchanging luxury goods with other middle and upper-class people. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with reciprocal gift exchanges—every culture in the world has them, and they can certainly be fun. It’s just that it’s not distinctively Christian, which would seem important in celebrating the birth of the religion’s founder. Many of us long for a Christmas season that has a genuine spiritual center.
So this year, instead of just complaining impotently, we decided to do something about it together. One of our core beliefs at Simple Living for Just Giving is that the spiritual gift of giving is best developed together, in groups, in movements, in community. So the editors of this blog would like to invite you to join us for the Just Giving Challenge. Here’s what we propose:
- This year, let’s match our spending on Christmas presents with giving to the poor. In other words, we challenge you to join us in making a matching grant on Christmas Day to a charity of your choice that equals your total holiday spending. Since Jesus cares so much about giving to the poor, this seemed to us like a good way to celebrate His coming.
- As extra incentive, we will donate $100 for the first 100 people who join us. For example, if 72 people sign up, that’s $7200 extra going to benefit those in poverty this Christmas!
- Not sure where to give? In the next four weeks we will publish on this blog reviews of four organizations that we think are doing effective work in serving the poor–and the editors’ gift will go to the organization you vote for in our online poll!
- Looking for spiritual sustenance this Christmas season? Every Sunday we will be publishing Advent reflections on just giving that help nudge us towards a distinctively Christian celebration of the holidays this year.
So are you in? If you’d like to join us, all you need to do is leave a comment with your name and first initial on this post. That’s it! Together, we can look forward to a Christmas season that’s more than “just shopping.”