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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Have a merry green Christmas!

The signs are out for Black Friday shopping which always sounds a little ominous to me. But obviously it's to announce a day when the stores hope to jump into the black and out of the red ink in their financial pages. It will take some concerted shopping on all our parts for them to go from red to black.

And probably even more to go green!

Maybe you've had a chance to read my column at www.minnesotaumc.org on having a merry green Christmas. A green Christmas usually means that there's no snow but in these days of concern about the environment--God's creation--we need to develop a new holiday greeting: have a green Christmas!

How will you make changes in the ways in which you celebrate Jesus' birthday so that you are kind and caring toward the Earth upon which he walked?

I come from a long history of paperbag wrappings so there's not too much more I can do in that department. I was thinking that maybe I could recycle ALL the gift bags we have, using colors and symbols that aren't necessarily Christmas or even winter! So someone might get a gift bag that looks more like a sunny day in the Caribbean . . . maybe not so bad!

We have an artificial tree although for years we had no tree whatsoever. We would wrap a stool with Christmas lights and put a nativity set on top. I guess you can tell we're not traditionalists.

We look like we're the only Jewish family in the neighborhood. People have been out already on the warmer November days putting up lights. There will be no lights on our house. It's an energy-saving move but the energy-saving that comes from not going out there and putting them up, not the amount of electricity used! At least we'll have a tree and you can see it from the outside. But for those who put up light, the more energy efficient, the better.

We'll probably spend less this year which won't make for a black Friday or December for anyone, except maybe us! We'll be more careful about what we give instead of the shot-gun approach that we sometimes use, hoping we hit the mark for the ones who have everything!

We enjoy giving money away at this time of the year and the rest of the year for that matter. The givingMN.org website and its Give-to-the Max day was wonderful! How can we help our churches, church-related institutions and organizations, and the denomination itself provide for this means of giving?

So tell us, how will you have a merry green(er) Christmas this year? Share your ideas and hopes to care for Earth as you celebrate Jesus' birth and maybe you'll inspire me to do more and others with new ideas!

17 comments:

Lausten North said...

We have slowly switched to an email version of our Christmas letter. We only snail mail to those who don't have computers. It opens up new creative possibilities and saves paper, ink and some carbon footprint from the USPS.

Carol E. said...

Instead of buying so many rolls of wrapping paper, I make quilted gift bags which can be used over and over. 90% of my shopping is directly from artists at art/craft fairs or from fair trade organizations. I love outdoor Christmas lights, so I don't want to scrimp in that way, but I put out only a few - enough to give me the Christmas-time joy I get from the lights.

Leslie said...

This year we may not even have a tree-due more to the fact my husband isn't able to do the usual things of life this year. But, next year we will put up the artificial tree with the tiny white lights and all the child-made ornaments. We have not been using gift wrap for years, reuse boxes and bags from past Christmases, brown paper bags are great, too. We don't give gifts to family members. We have not done that for years now. We choose to give donations to places that fit the person we donating in honor of--for example, my sister is very active in the soup kitchen ministry in San Diego so we give to our local soup kitchen in her honor. The first year we did this felt a bit strange, but everyone loved it and we really enjoyed giving in their names. We buy our children a gift or two, but that is it and usually those gifts are items we have already purchased for them-we just grab them and put them in bags for the Christmas morning opening-ski boots, new school computers, etc. I still love buying toys, winter coats, pajamas, etc. but now I do that and donate them. Get the joy of buying and giving, but for those who need it, not my own family that already has so much. We are blessed this year, may not get to do all the concerts, events, parties, and decorating as we have done, but the energy saving (human) we are doing will bring better health to my husband in the long run and we know that Christmas is not in the tree, lights and tons of decorations but in the time to "ponder in our hearts" what this season means, what the birth of the baby means to us and to all.

Steven Manskar said...

Check out the ideas at Advent Conspiracy: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

Take a look at the video promo.

Laura B. said...

We can save lots of trees, dozens of stamps, and hundreds of kilowatts, but if we don't seek to save a single soul, the true message of Christmas will be lost. Only what the birth in Bethlehem births in me and through me to the world will count for eternity. The best gifts are still free--a gentle touch, a warm smile, time to talk and listen, sincere words of encouragement, and testimonies of faith. May we all have a holy and blessed season of basking in and radiating the love of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us.

Anonymous said...

I too think we can do all the green things and we should as much as we can BUT unless we live the life Christ taught us the rest is chasing after wind. Will we invite someone we don't know into our homes for a meal or a gift or just conversation that says "I care"? Will we work for justice all year round not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas? I pray that we do.

Lois said...

In the past few years, instead of giving material gifts, we have planned family vacations and time together. It has brought much joy to us. We are also exploring giving donations to causes that speak to our hearts. Memories, shared together, are one of my greatest Christmas gifts. I do not buy a live tree anymore and have a small one with small white lights that I appreciate. Baking and sharing this with others is fun and helps me live the real reason for the season - "Love came down at Christmas." May we share that in our celebrating!

Kurt and CheriAnne Johnson said...

How about as a gift for families this year, give them a "campership" to one of the conference camp sites. Most, if not all, have cabins and campsites that are available for private usage. For instance, a $42 "gift" will give a family 2 nights at Decision Hills on one of their Tent/RV sites. We plan on doing some of that. It doesn't take any packaging, gets people a "Stay-Cation", and helps support a great camping program.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop Sally,
As a clergy wife, I have always asked why our pastors have not spoken from the pulpit about domestic abuse. It is a mystery to me why they are so afraid to bring up the subject of violence against women right here in our own communities and sometimes in our own homes. I see for the first time that Wyoming UMC is offering a workshop on Domestic Violence coming up in January. This is a new phenomenon. Why has it taken so long? It's definitely time.

The Liberian Truth and Justice Project final report is now completed. Some UMC clergy participated in the project by taking testimonies. The results are published in a book titled, A House with Two Rooms: Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia Diaspora Project. You can download the whole report of 600 pages, or read chapter by chapter at www.theadvocatesfor humanrights.org/Final_Report.html. Chapter 10 tells of the extreme violence Liberian women suffered during the time period covered by the report. Their extreme suffering is as unaccepable as unsafe conditions for any woman or child in any home on the planet. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Where, after all, do your human civil rights begin? In small places, close to home--so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world... such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere."

What if we have the next School of Christian Mission include the topic of violence against women? I would suggest that we have Sharon Rice-Vaughn (just retired from Metropolitan State U and one of the founding mothers of the first domestic violence shelter in MN) be our featured trainer. United Methodist women have not stood up for themselves or their sisters as much as we can.

Anonymous said...

Our family decided a couple months ago that we would have a "Green" Christmas - not the $$ kind. The adults have decided to either exchange gifts that are handmade or recycled. My 85 year old Dad is going to go through his cupboards and choose from Mom's (who passed away) nice serving dishes to give to his girls. I'm looking through our bookshelves and other keepsakes. I'm also trying to crochet and sew other gifts. And I'm hoping to find time to update a family cookbook, of all their favorite recipes to give them. I'm setting aside tins and such to use as gift containers.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there's nothing environmentally harmful about having a real tree. The income from raising Christmas trees provides landowners with a renewable use of their land to grow a crop that consumes CO2 at a much more rapid rate than older trees. Instead of subdividing land for development, farmers can assure themselves of an annual income from an activity requiring little machinery (which emits CO2) and does not require pesticides.
Mulching the tree and composting it returns it use by the earth and the little critters that create soil. Consider what goes into an artificial tree: mining the earth for minerals, plastics (oil), furnaces, low-income foreign labor, packaging, etc. So go green...use a real tree and help a farmer keep his land away from the bulldozers.

Bishop Sally Dyck said...

Thank you for sharing some of your practices, concerns and thoughts about a green Christmas. I especially appreciate the comments about having a real Christmas tree. When it comes to "being green," we often jump to conclusions about what is the best for the environment, (I've heard similar arguments about diapers!)and we fail to see wider implications. Those are the conversations we need to have.

Sometimes we have to choose between certain values, for instance, I choose to eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit as opposed to strictly eating locally (and there are job-related implications as well as environmental ones associated with that choice). What we need to do is to learn from each other in order to think more deeply about these issues.

Our Anonymous friends ironically raise divergent responses to a Christian witness in terms of our faith. One Anonymous says it's most important that we share Christ. Sharing Christ is important but as the another Anonymous indicates in her concern for domestic violence, the world (and Christians, too) are looking for us to make a difference in everyone's life through our faith. For me, trying to be a good steward of the Earth (as well as preventing domestic violence) are signs of what Christ calls forth in me and other Christians. For many people, that's the witness that will cause them to consider Jesus. Actions speak louder than words for those who have given up on us as Christians.

Any other comments on the connection between our faith and the greening of our lives?

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