I like giving at Christmas.  It’s in my DNA, really.  Not only did I grow up in Alaska where Santa Claus lives, but also my mom gave lavishly (excessively?) every Christmas (my sister and I had 50-100 presents under the tree every year).  So Christmas presents are a part of who I am.  It’s hard for me to imagine Christmas without them.

But it’s also hard for me to imagine Christmas without stress, pressure, or a blown budget.  And it’s hard for me to imagine Christmas that’s truly focused on Jesus and His birth.  I’ve never had a Christmas like that.

Until this year. 

This year, I’ve begun to change the way I celebrate Christmas.  I did my first fast through the Advent season, which totally changed my spiritual barometer for the better and really helped me embrace Jesus as my Provider.  And I decided to give more gifts to charity in people’s honor than give them store-bought gifts.  I have experienced more of Jesus and the wonder of His birth this Christmas season than ever before, and it’s not even Christmas yet!

Then I learned about this movement called Advent Conspiracy.  It’s mission is to turn Christmas back into a holiday where we Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.  Check out their promo video that explains the point in a super compelling way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkTyPzRzuwc&feature=player_embedded.

I was inspired, but then this sold me completely: AdventConspiracy.org says that we spend $450 billion annually in the U.S.  But to solve all the clean water problems in the WORLD would take around $8 billion.  Ridiculous.  If we really preach Jesus as Lord and Savior, what are we doing???  But wait — if I really preach Jesus as Lord and Savior, what am I doing? 

This Christmas-with-minimal-Jesus pattern that I’ve gotten myself into isn’t working for me.  Too much stress, too little Jesus.  And what I do with my money matters.  It matters a lot.  It’s the difference between a heart-warming present that gets left on a shelf or stuffed in a closet, and clean water that saves people’s lives.  It’s the difference between giving someone the white elephant gift they’ll use at next year’s Christmas party and providing loans to the poor to give them a working chance.  It’s the difference between giving wealthy people wealthy gifts or feeding an orphan.

I’m done.  I’m kissing Christmas shopping goodbye.  Next year, I’m giving all my money to charity.  Like Opportunity International (which has a site where you can choose specific individuals in impoverished countries for whom to fund loans: OptInNow.org).  Or Yezelalem Minch, an Ethiopian orphan care program doing amazing things for street orphans  (http://www.helpsinternationalministries.org/outreach/yezelalem.shtml).  Or Living Water, which provides clean water in places that don’t have it, like Haiti (http://www.water.cc/).

And I’m looking forward to experiencing even more Jesus next Christmas than I did this Christmas!

What are you doing?  Want to join me?