Tis the season when our thoughts turn to Christmas trees and mistletoe and glittery ornaments and garlands and wreaths and shopping and baking and … this list could take up the whole page, but you get the idea.
Some of my neighbors already have their Christmas decorations up. I’m usually one who gets around to decorating the second, or sometimes third, week of December, probably because when I was growing up, we usually waited until after my brother’s mid-December birthday to buy a tree and put up decorations. Or maybe it’s just because I’m a shameless procrastinator.
Which camp are you in: the early decorators or the waiters? Whether you’ve had your tree up and decorated since before Thanksgiving or are just now starting to ponder whether to go with a real or fake tree this year, I bet you’ve got Christmas on your mind. And rightfully so, but I hope you’re focusing on the best part of Christmas: the gift of Jesus’ birth and life sacrificed for us.
The Christian season of advent started this past Sunday, and my church is all decked out to celebrate: wreaths outside and in, a huge tree in the sanctuary and poinsettias all over the place. For the last several years, our preachers have put together sermon series to build on a particular theme for a few weeks at a time, and this year’s advent series is called “The Christmas Tree: Scoundrels, Liars and the Perfect Child.” During the weeks that lead up to Christmas, our preachers will tell about the family members who make up Jesus’ family tree, based on the genealogy listed in Matthew 1.
Take some time this week to read Matthew 1 for yourself, and see if it helps prepare your heart better for the season. Then, as you look at your own Christmas trees, think of those people from the Bible who formed the limbs and branches of Jesus’ Christmas tree, maybe people who aren’t that different from ones you find in your own family tree.
But there’s another sort of Christmas tree I’d also like for you to consider, too, especially as you scramble to find the perfect gift for that person who already has everything. Heifer International sends out a catalog each year, usually filled with different animals you can “buy” for struggling villages around the world. This year, they’re offering tree seedlings as a gift option, $60 for a a full complement of seedlings or $10 for a share of seedlings.
If you have a little more to spend and want to include some animals in your gift, consider the Gardener’s Basket, a gift that includes tree seedlings, rabbits, chickens and a bee hive. The full basket is $170, and a share is $20. For each gift you give through Heifer, you’ll receive cards to let family and friends know about this wonderful gift you have given in their honor.
Do you know family or friends who might appreciate a donation in their honor more than a material item under the Christmas tree? Or maybe you and your children can research the gift choices Heifer offers and choose one to buy together as a family.
Many times, the gifts we give at Christmas are forgotten or broken or maybe even exchanged by the end of January. But the gift of a different kind of Christmas tree is one that can change lives forever. Because of that, it will bless both the receiver and the giver.
I hope you’ll consider this gift-giving option, and if you do, I hope you’ll let me know about your decision here in the comments. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Christmas shopping to do.
Speaking of gifts
I almost forgot to announce the winner of last week’s challenge! Thanks so much to all of you who shared your responses to this challenge, and also for those of you who tried to post responses but couldn’t (blogspot can be so frustrating at times).
Anyway, I loved reading all of your responses and ended up drawing a name at random to win a copy of Ann Voskamp’s book. Bev, you’re the lucky winner!
Shannon — I love this idea of a school class collecting spare change for this.
My daughter's class gave pocket change to sponsor a lamb through Heifer a couple of years ago. A wonderful organization.