It’s hard to believe. One of our staff members starts in July giving us reminders of how many days until Christmas. Two weeks ago within a 24 hour period I saw my first Christmas TV ad, heard my first Christmas Radio spot and received my first Christmas Card (that was awesome as one of the children of our Dinner for 6 couples made cards for our whole group- made my day!) But this blog is not THAT article lamenting the materialistic tendency of Christmas and loss of the sense of Advent preparations.
Instead, I just want to remind the folks in our Centenary community of our Advent Offering this year and explain how it will work. We are making a paradigm shift from budgeting all of our Missions funding through our operational budget and instead, supplementing our missions outreach by emphasizing our Advent Offering. We have the opportunity to give generously during the season of Advent in order to impact our Winston-Salem community and those most in need. Here’s how that works:
- Both offerings taken at the Lessons and Carols (December 10) as well as all 4 of our Christmas Eve Services will 100% be designated for local Missions. (Should you place a check in the plate and designate operations, of course it will go towards our budget.)
- While we will support some global mission causes through budgeted funds, 100% of our Advent Offering will be spent locally helping our neighbors close to home.
- We trust our Missions Committee to make good choices about how to disperse those funds. They will choose a multiple of agencies, causes and missional opportunities to support. So our gifts will meet a multitude of needs!
- We know that Christmas is a time when we celebrate the good fortune and opportunity most in our church family enjoy. So this is a chance to balance our personal celebration with family and friends along side support of those in need and the agencies that are faithfully meeting those needs. Christmas Eve in particular is a time for charitable giving remembering those who are struggling.
I want to challenge you to have a conversation with your family now about how you might celebrate Christmas this year. Some families look at their Christmas Budget and decide that they will spend half on themselves and half they will give away. Others make the promise that whatever they do spend on themselves they will give an equal amount to charity. Others decide that instead of gifts, they will support good causes. Whatever sounds meaningful to you is wonderful, just make a plan now.
One reason I believe that our Advent Offering is even better than some other options you might be considering to support is that our giving will support a multitude of causes in positive and healthy ways. If you have not read the book When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, it is an excellent explanation of how to go about helping others in healthy ways. They say that helping the poor happens in one of three ways: Relief, Rehabilitation, and Development.
Relief is crisis assistance when people are unexpectedly unable to help themselves. It should be seldom, immediate and temporary. Good Samaritans give assistance in order to bridge that gap until they are able to get beyond crisis existence. Examples of this would be Hurricane Relief or someone has an accident or surgery and is unable to work and lives paycheck to paycheck. They need help until they have healed and return to work. Rehabilitation is when the bleeding has stopped and assistance is needed to restore the people to the pre-crisis condition, helping partner with people until they can get back on their feet. This is essentially poverty alleviation. Development is the ongoing work of moving all people into a right relationship with God, self, others and Creation. It’s helping people move to a place where they are able to work and support themselves but this work is done with people, not for or to people (City With Dwellings is a good example of this). Our Missions Committee has the ability to support all three kinds of financial assistance versus just one good cause.
So as we consider our wish lists, shopping lists, cooking lists and travel plans for the upcoming holidays, I hope we will also pause to have a conversation about what our Helping Plan will be for 2017. And I hope that your family will consider giving generously to our Advent Offerings so that we can overwhelm our Mission Committee with so much support that the Extravagant Generosity of Centenary United Methodist Church will be experienced by neighbors and people downtown and throughout the Winston-Salem region. We have 60 days until Christmas! Let’s make a plan.
Grace and Peace,