We had a wonderful Christmas at our house. Lovely wife and I were fortunate enough to have both of our daughters and their husbands and their children (and one of the grandson’s bride-to-be) with us. After an inspiring Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church we adjourned to our home. The tree (artificial, of course, and ecologically responsible, we trust) was splendid, and the living room was more than festive with the traditional lights and decorations.
Following what I think is an old custom in northern Germany, it is our family tradition to give out our presents on Christmas Eve “after church.” This year, when the gifts had all been opened and the living room was thoroughly cluttered with boxes and bows and ribbons and such, I was struck by a seriously distressing thought: This is obscene! How inappropriate it is to celebrate the birth of Him Whom we call our Savior (who, we say, had no place to lay his head!) in such an irresponsible way. Our carbon footprint on the evening of Dec. 24 must have dwarfed that of a small Third World country! The gifts I received were thoughtful and well-intentioned and even appreciated … and utterly unneeded. I have reached the point in life where, when I receive an article of clothing, I have to get rid of a similar item. (Thank goodness for the rummage sale at Community Presbyterian!) I don’t have space to store anymore clothes!
That bothered me so much as I pondered the plight of refugees in so many places and homeless sisters and brothers in our own country that I had to fight off exceedingly powerful negative feelings.
Next year, I have requested that I not receive any gifts of the usual kind. I just don’t need anymore “stuff.” Instead, I have asked that those who may feel obligated or inclined to give me something give what they would spend on a gift to Greenspace toward the purchase and planting of a tree in Cambria.
I don’t suppose I can enforce what I hope will become a new tradition for our family, but at least everybody said they would respect my wishes. We shall see.
And feel free to steal this idea, if you wish.
Don Dallmann served as pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for three years and currently serves as pastor associate there.
For more information about opportunities for tree planting, please contact Greenspace at firstname.lastname@example.org (email) or at P.O. Box 1505, Cambria, CA 93428 (snail mail).
Trees are $10 each, $40 if Greenspace plants the tree and tends it for a year. Greenspace has locations to plant the trees, if you don’t want or need them on your property.