Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

‘Tis The Season To Be Generous

How can we put Christ back into our Christmas celebrations? We asked Common Good executive director, Sarah Binos, to share how she’s trying to do this with her family.

What would your challenge be to Christ-followers living in Cape Town this Christmas?

First of all, it’s important to say that I haven’t figured this all out! I’m still grappling with this in my own life! My challenge to myself and to other Christians would be to consider the implications of what we’re celebrating.

Christ’s birth was incarnational – he left the glory of Heaven to be born into poverty on Earth. Wow! It was the moment in history when the Saviour of the world came to rescue us. If that’s what we’re celebrating, how can we be more like Jesus in that way?

We’ve all been placed somewhere – in a neighbourhood, in a suburb, in a job – how can we be the presence of Jesus there? Christmas is an event that the majority of people celebrate, whether they’re believers or not, so how are we allowing the message of Christ’s birth to influence our immediate surroundings?

How do you think Jesus would celebrate Christmas if he were in Cape Town today?

I don’t think his emphasis would be on the Christmas jingles and jangles – he definitely wouldn’t be mall trawling! But I think he would still want us to celebrate by focusing on people and community, rather than on gifts (not that presents are bad!).

If we look at Christ’s life we see how he made everyone feel comfortable and included in his presence, especially those who were on the fringes of society. At a time when Christmas has the propensity to be quite insular, I’m challenged by the way Christ swung wide open the doors of his life to others.

How are you and your family going to try to make Christmas more meaningful this year?

I’m feeling challenged around how we can celebrate Christ’s presence in our lives without multiple presents. In our family we celebrate by having a lovely meal together and giving each other gifts but I try to point everything back to Jesus.

The gifts we give and receive should be a metaphorical picture of all the other gifts that he’s extended to us. I want my children to understand that these gifts are just a picture of much bigger gifts – ones we can’t even touch or feel. The way God loves us, the way he died for us and rescued us – these are the real gifts.

I think we can use the cultural traditions we’ve developed around Christmas but completely spin them on their head for the glory of Christ. For example, when we take our kids down Adderley Street to look at the Christmas lights, it’s asking the question, why is this all happening? It’s always to be conscious of why we’re celebrating.

How can we balance the joy of celebrating Christmas with family and friends – and still be inclusive to people who are in need over this time?

I think it’s important to have special family time but there are ways that I can open my home. For example, there’s an old age home down the road, and even in my immediate sphere, I’ve got friends who don’t have family. I’m thinking of how I can include a whole range of people where everyone feels a part of the celebration.

Giving gifts to loved ones is a big part of Christmas time for many people. How can we make this more meaningful?

Christ was so generous in what he gave to us so we can still celebrate by giving each other presents but that needs to happen alongside radical generosity. While I spend money on myself and those immediately around me, I also need to be thinking about those who don’t have. What can I do so that the blessing that God has given me doesn’t just flow back to me? How can I be more generous, not just financially, but also with my family and with my home?

I’m going to try to look at how much time and money I’m spending on myself and my family this Christmas and then make sure that at least a percentage of that is flowing out through an appropriate channel.

How can we be generous this Christmas without hurting those we’re trying to help?

In communities where there’s a lot of privilege we need to find ways for resources to flow outside of ourselves but in a way that isn’t patronising or doesn’t build dependency. One way of doing this could be through Give Hope cards where the money raised will be used to empower people through really sound initiatives.

Another way is by giving where there’s relationship. I have a friend who is in a very different socio-economic bracket but because I have relationship with her it’s natural for me to give her a gift. It’s not going to be seeing as paternalistic because she’s my friend.

I think it’s being conscious of who are the people in your sphere who you can bless. Maybe for some of us these are our employees, or the people who work with us or around us, or maybe it’s even the person who guards your car who you’ve struck up a relationship with.

What’s Common Good’s Christmas campaign all about this year?

The Show Love This Christmas campaign is really about giving people an opportunity to see Christmas as more than just a time to meet our own personal needs. It’s about encouraging us to think of ways to put Christ back into Christmas.

This could be through Give Hope cards which will open up channels of generosity to flow to people who maybe don’t have resources, or through stewarding our time in a way that serves others. (The Christmas PlugIn sheet has some great ideas for how to do this.)

And then, of course, there’s Care for The Carer, which is a great way to celebrate those who on a daily basis make massive sacrifices to serve those in need. Christmas is a time where we can celebrate these unsung heroes who are rarely given any affirmation or encouragement. Many times they’re the forgotten heroes yet Jesus at Christmas would probably celebrate them.

And what about after the tinsel comes down?

Most of us think of Christmas as an event but Christmas marks the moment in history when Christ came into the world. As Christians, we have to see Christmas as a reminder of what the long road is about. This is a moment to freshly take stock of what our Saviour coming into the world means for the rest of our lives. It’s not about the event it’s about how the event informs our whole journey.

-Sarah leads the Common Good team and serves on the leadership team of Common Ground Church with her husband, Steve.

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Show love

For more information on the ‘Show Love This Christmas’ campaign and how you can get involved, click here.

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