I just became aware of one Anchorage church employing the right idea for selflessly observing Christmas. According to Sr. Pastor Bob Mather, “Our theme for December is “It’s Not Your Birthday””.
During this time, parishioners and staff of Baxter Road Bible Church will demonstrate to the local community, and the rest of the world, that Christmas is not primarily about giving gifts to each other, but in sharing the true meaning of God’s grace with those less fortunate. “We will be using all the tithes and offerings that come in for the month to help the poor, needy, orphans and missionaries. None of the money will be used for church expenses”, says Mather.
Continuing, Pastor Bob shared “We plan to involve people in the church to help decide just where the money will go. Love INC will help us in taking calls from people looking for help as they have the appropriate screening expertise, ensuring monies will go to those with true need. We are planning on being completely transparent about the exact amount that comes in and exactly how it is spent. Also, we are doing a food drive in conjunction with the food bank and want to feed a minimum of 100 families with complete meals.” Pastor Mather estimates the December giving program will amount to approximately $35,000, a significant sum for a 300 member church. This is in addition to the $150/month over 25 individuals or families each give to support a missionary in India. What loving generosity!
Concluding, Mather notes, “We are excited to see what the Lord is going to do.”
I too, am excited about this church and its commitment to and demonstration of the true spirit of Christmas. I’m looking forward to seeing what stories emerge from this emphasis. Never before have I heard of a church devoting 100% of its finances for such a month of outward focused sharing within their community. Instead, I too often see churches devote considerable resources to “celebrate” Christmas by offering parishioners concerts, food celebrations, special decorations, and many other tangible ways of demonstrating the Christmas spirit internally, to their own people. Thanks are due to churches like Baxter Road Bible Church for showing the rest of us the way to righting the focus during the Christmas season.
A perfect closing to this discussion is theologian Walter Brueggemann’s poem, “We Are Takers”.
We are takers
You are the giver of all good things.
All good things are sent from heaven above,
rain and sun,
day and night,
justice and righteousness,
bread to the eater and
seed to the sower,
peace to the old,
energy to the young,
joy to the babes.
We are takers, who take from you,
day by day, daily bread,
taking all we need as you supply,
taking in gratitude and wonder and joy.
And then taking more,
taking more than we need,
taking more than you give us,
taking from our sisters and brothers,
taking from the poor and the weak,
taking because we are frightened, and so greedy,
taking because we are anxious, and so fearful,
taking because we are driven, and so uncaring.
Give us peace beyond our fear, and so end our greed.
Give us well-being beyond our anxiety, and so end our fear.
Give us abundance beyond our drivenness,
and so end our uncaring.
Turn our taking into giving… since we are in your giving image:
Make us giving like you,
giving gladly and not taking,
giving in abundance, not taking,
giving in joy, not taking,
giving as he gave himself up for us all,
giving, never taking. Amen.
Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth
Prayers of Walter Brueggemann