My good friend Rachael has come down to the Coast to volunteer for 2 months--she sold her car, broke her lease on her apartment, and rode a bus over 900 miles to get here! She has one of the toughest jobs at our non-profit--she works directly with clients giving out food, clothing, bus passes, hygiene kits, sack lunches, and other necessities, which means that she deals on a daily basis with desperate situations, hopelessness, heartache, substance abuse & mental health issues, and abrasive attitudes. She's really been a godsend--we'd be tearing out our hair if it weren't for all she does as the "gatekeeper" of our organization!
Rachael is also my role model for green-ness--environmental stewardship--and this year she's crafted a beautiful Christmas letter to send out to her family and friends in preparation for the holiday season. Read on, and check out the Green Xmas tips on the post below! --Leah
"Let me be one of the first to wish you “Merry Christmas 2007!” Yes, I know that you’re probably sifting through Halloween candy as you read this and, at best, envisioning the turkey and mashed potatoes that await you in several weeks. Christmas probably isn’t the first thing on your mind. But as you head into the upcoming holiday season, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you that might help to enlighten and enrich your Christmas experience this year.
The amazing book I read earlier this year Serve God, Save the Planet by Matthew Sleeth really challenged me to evaluate my habits and lifestyle in relationship to my faith. I came to fully understand why eco-stewardship is such a crucial part of following Jesus’ call to love our neighbors. Furthermore, Sleeth’s book helped to open my eyes to my multitudes of blessings and reminded me of the Bible’s position on giving to those in need and fighting for justice for the weak and oppressed. Being on the Gulf Coast has humbled me immensely and allowed me to understand the importance of the little things I take for granted on a daily basis.
As Christians we are oftentimes inundated with portraits of the poor and told how lucky we are to have things as simple as food, clothing, and shelter. Yet, though Jesus reminds us that the poor are among us, we are insulated enough not to really have to confront that fact, at least on a regular basis. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives we are not often conscious of the suffering our brothers and sisters are enduring all around us. When we are hungry, we head to the fridge. When we are cold, we grab a sweater. When we are tired, we climb into bed. Too often it is easy to forget how all around us people struggle to secure even one of these basic needs every single day.
So where do my Christmas tidings fit into all of this? Well, as I began to understand the breadth of my many gifts, I started to assess the nature of holiday gift giving in general. I began to ask myself, “What do I really need for Christmas this year?” And while visions of proverbial “sugar plums” danced through my head, I quickly recognized that while I certainly would love a new camera or cute winter sweater, there was nothing I could say I truly needed. The images of the people I served daily here in Mississippi began to fill my mind, and before I knew it I was rid of those silly dancing sugar plums.
Christmas is a holiday commemorating the greatest gift we could ever receive: the love and grace of Jesus Christ. We give gifts each year to symbolize this gift and those that the Magi joyfully brought to the baby Jesus. Giving gifts to one another as a sign of love, joy, and peace is a wonderful part of our contemporary Christmas tradition. Yet, I had to ask myself, “Do I really need a new bath set or gift card to commemorate the birth of my savior?” Furthermore, when there are those who hope to fill the bellies of their crying babies, soothe their aching feet, or find a respite from the cold on Christmas Day, isn’t there a better way to honor and celebrate His life and teachings?
So, this year, in honor of Jesus’ birthday, I have a different kind of Christmas list for all of you. I would like food, clothing, and shelter for those who need it. How can you do that? Well, each week we turn away hundreds of people who need help with the basic necessities of life because there simply aren’t enough resources for them. Instead of buying me a present this Christmas, you have a wonderful opportunity to honor Jesus and his call to love your brothers and sisters in the Gulf Coast region by making a gift to the organizations where I work*. The joy and relief you can provide for them is far better than any present you could ever buy for me!
Furthermore, I lovingly challenge you to evaluate your own holiday gift giving. I know I certainly have drawers full of gifts I have barely touched. Are there people in your life that are so difficult to buy for you always end up just resorting to something impersonal or unnecessary? Think instead of donating to a charity that means something to them! Do you have items you could give to a mission in your area? Do you have a free Saturday to volunteer your time? The best gift we could ever receive was Jesus’ unfailing love. In turn, the best gift we can ever give is to love our neighbors, each and every one: especially the ones it is easy to forget about it amidst the chaos of our contemporary commercial Christmas.
…with tidings of comfort and joy… --Rachael"