By Marcus Kelly
Someone jokingly asked me the other day if I had “finished my Christmas shopping?”
I said yes, I had finished.
Had that same person asked whether I had begun my Christmas shopping, I would have answered no. You might be scratching your head at this point, thinking I had just given two contradictory responses. I am done shopping and I haven’t even begun shopping. What gives with that kind of response?
Aside from some gifts for our grandchildren (couldn’t think of leaving them out, but Judy does most of the shopping for them, anyway) I already know and have made arrangements for those on my shopping list. This year, I am not going to be frantically looking for things like “Billy Bass,” Chia pets, executive desk organizers, 2010 “Far Side 365 Day Calendars,” or a combination, vibrating flashlight/tire pressure guage/window scraper/grilling tool from Brookstone. I don’t know about you but my closet is full of those things already and I like using them for “White Elephant Gift Exchanges.” I am sure no one on my list is waiting expectantly to receive such a gift from me this year.
Instead, what Judy and I are doing – along with thousands of other Christians here in Enumclaw and around the country – is diverting most of what we spend on gifts that people don’t really want or need. We are diverting those same dollars to help provide safe water for two different communities in Africa.
According to LifeWater International, the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation is the No. 1 health problem in the world. Approximately 1.8 billion people in the world die each year from diseases stemming from unclean water and poor sanitation. It is estimated that a child dies from waterborn-disease somewhere in the world every 15 seconds (by the time you finish reading this, four children will have died).
Each year in this country, the average American spends $740 for gifts that often go unused. As a country, we spend a total of $450 billion on Christmas and holiday gift buying. According to adventconspiracy.org, that is 45 times the amount of money it would take to solve the water problem worldwide. I know I can’t tip the scales by myself, but I want to put my spending into perspective by using what I normally would spend to try and make a small difference.
Recently, I was with a team of people from Enumclaw who were in Zambia in support of a community-based school. One of our projects was to see to the drilling of a well. I cannot forget seeing the joy of an entire community when fresh water began gushing from an aquifer deep beneath the ground. As I watched that water welling up over the dry ground and the exuberant joy expressed by those who will benefit from it, I couldn’t help but remember Jesus’ words to a woman in Samaria as he asked her to draw water for him from the well in the center of her community.
“Whoever drinks the water I will give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
Water is indespensible to life. Living water is indispensible to eternal life. That is the gift God conspired to give to the world when Jesus the Son was sent into the world. The true message of Christmas isn’t valued by how much we spend on extravagant gifts but on how much of ourselves we are willing to give as a sacrificial sign of God’s love to the world. Is the emphasis of this season on how much you spend on Christmas presents? Or is it on the many ways you can give of yourself to meet the needs of others right here in our community or around the world. Check out some of the ways you can rethink Christmas by visiting www.adventconspiracy.org and join in making this Christmas different.