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FIRST-PERSON: At Christmas, give what matters

DORA, Ala. (BP) — How much will most of us be spending this Christmas? According to the American Research Group, survey respondents plan to spend about $800.

While giving gifts is a nice way to honor those you love, perhaps there are even better ways to honor the birth of our Savior.

Let’s be honest here. Most of us already have our needs met, along with a whole lot of wants. So is giving Uncle Hiram another box of handkerchiefs really a smart way to spend those celebratory dollars? Instead of giving to those who already have, why not invest your money in those who could really use your help?

A homeless shelter in Birmingham, Ala., spends $1.95 to feed a person a holiday meal. Forgo Uncle Hiram’s handkerchiefs this year, donate that money, and you could feed 10 people Christmas dinner. I suspect that giving Uncle Hiram a card telling him that you did this in his honor will put a much bigger smile on his face than any box of handkerchiefs ever will.

That is sort of what our friends Jackie and Richard did for me and my husband Larry last Christmas. Instead of the fancy tree ornament we usually received, we got a card with a picture of a smiling group of Haitians showing off the goat that had just arrived in their village. This goat, the card explained, was given in our honor and would produce up to a gallon of milk per day, helping supply desperately needed nutrition. That goat was one of the nicest gifts Larry and I have ever received.

Let’s say there are 10 adults on your Christmas list and you plan to spend an average of $20 on each, or a total of $200. Now let’s say those same 10 people plan to do likewise. That comes to $2,000 more dollars.

Instead of the 11 of you giving each other gifts that you might not need or want, why not use that money to help those who truly have needs? Each of you could choose your own charities or churches to donate to, or better yet, imagine choosing a group project each year where that $2,200 could do something spectacular.

Psalm 146:9 reminds us that the Lord “cares for the orphans and widows.” This Christmas and all year long, we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the helpless and hopeless. What better time than now to start a family tradition of giving rather than receiving? And make sure your giving includes your time as well as your money.

Where can you make an impact? A few suggestions: (1) Your church undoubtedly will take on some special projects you can help with; (2) the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (www.imb.org/offering) (3) Angel Tree (www.PrisonFellowship.org/AngelTree); (4) Operation Christmas Child (www.SamaritansPurse.org); (5) local shelters for the homeless or battered women and children; and (6) children’s homes, such as those operated by Baptist conventions in numerous states.
Judy Woodward Bates is a speaker, TV personality and author of Bargainomics: Money Management by the Book. Visit her website at www.Bargainomics.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Judy Woodward Bates