It is Advent — the time of year I love more than any other. I love the lights (both in stringed form and in the individual candle form), I love the greenery, I love the emphasis on peace and hope and mystery and goodness, I love the music. I. Love. Advent.
But I’m disappointed every year that outside of my home and church, there is very little Advent. There is plenty of waiting — but it is waiting filled with worry, not hope. There is the rush to get the perfect gift, to attend the right number of extra events (all of which seem to require gifts). There is shoving and pepper spraying and a lack of the things that I adore about Advent.
The church where I work is participating in the Advent Conspiracy this year. I’ve seen this video hundreds of times (it has been around for several years — I’m pretty sure hundreds is not exaggerating), but continue to flock to it every year.
Every year when I watch it, I try to come up with ways to make the season better. Here’s what I do — I’d love your ideas:
1. Give to water.org. This year I think I’m going to give a certain small amount (50 cents to a dollar) for every Christmas gift I purchase. Want to join me? I’ve started a fundraiser here. If we reach my fundraising goal, TWENTY people will have clean water for life.
2. Give less. Allyn and I have decided not to buy things for each other this year. Instead, we are giving to our favorite organizations (see #1 for what mine is!) and spending time with one another. there are lots of alternative giving catalogs. World Vision and Heifer International are known for theirs.
3. Make gifts. It seems every year someone mentions the Christmas that my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents decided to make gifts for one another. Usually the mentioning is done in the form of a complaint — but they all remember it, what they made (or paid someone else to make…) and what they received. I don’t hear any other Christmas mentioned in the same way. Feeling uncreative? This site has lots of fun ideas. Or peruse pinterest — there is all KINDS of stuff there.
4. Buy other people’s handmade gifts. I am lucky to live in an artist community, so I know lots of folks I can buy things from. If you don’t, check etsy.
5. Buy fair trade. Fair trade means that the farmers/crafters/etc were paid a fair price for the item. Often the cost is not much higher than non-fair trade, because the sellers work directly with the producers. Ten Thousand Villages is a wonderful site — they have stores all over (for those in St. Louis, Plowsharing Crafts is such a store — and is a ministry of the church I’ve been attending). Have coffee drinkers in the family? Three Avocados is excellent fair trade coffee (and I’m picky) AND 100 percent of proceeds to provide clean water in Uganda.
6. Buy used. Craigslist and thrift stores are a great way to recycle items and spend less.
What do you do to find peace and joy in the season?