When I was a child, my church in Pittsburgh always hosted a little “shop” on a Saturday morning in December where children of the congregation could come and buy small items for everyone on their Christmas list. Some items were donated by church members and others from a local wholesaler who traded in dollar store items. I am sure the day will come in the future when I clean out my parents’ home and I find all of the switchblade combs and costume cocktail rings that I bought for them over the years. Even though the gifts weren’t significant, there was a significance in teaching me what it means to give gifts at Christmas.
When our son Owen was little (and even when he wasn’t all that little), I would typically take him to our local Ten Thousand Villages to buy gifts for his grandparents and friends. In the same spirit, we approached our shopping as a way to talk about why we celebrate Christmas by giving gifts, what it means to pick something out that will feel meaningful to the people we love, and how we shop in responsible ways.
In recent years, even now that Owen is technically an adult, we use the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church Advent Gift Market Catalogue in the same way. We make a list of the people for whom we are shopping each year and consider which of the often over 17 organizations represented in the Market would be meaningful for the people in our lives.
During 2020 in particular, the AGM catalogue was a great way to reach out to family and friends when we couldn’t be together. That year through AGM, we sent folks books donated to the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children. One of my mother’s friends, very likely someone who had walked me through that little shop at church 40 years ago, reached out to say how grateful she was for such a thoughtful gift. It was such an easy gesture on our part, but was so meaningful to her.
This year we once again have a catalogue full of the life of mission and ministry supported by this congregation. I hope that those of you who have made AGM an important part of your gift giving each year will once again support our partners locally and around the world. I hope that those of you who have never given a gift through AGM will choose this year to give a gift that will have meaning not just to your recipient, but to the organizations whose work continues year round.
You can start shopping as early as this Sunday, November 12th, when the online shopping site at www.BrynMawrAGM.com goes live. Online orders are typically ready in a few days.
But I also strongly encourage you to join us for our opening celebration on Sunday, November 19th when representatives from our committees, Boards and Councils will have more information about each of our partner organizations. In person shopping will also begin that day.
In this moment when we all are seeking ways to make an impact, the Advent Gift Market is once again the perfect way to have a meaningful giving season.