The Gifts We Need

The other day as I was walking my son to the bus stop, we had a brief conversation about our expectations for Christmas this year. Living in Egypt for the past two holiday seasons meant very modest Christmas celebrations. Western toys that we could get our hands on in Cairo were far more expensive than they were worth, and in the back of our minds anything bought in Egypt would need to fit in suitcases when we moved home.

It was remarkable how willing Owen was to roll with this different way of celebrating Christmas. His pile of presents never reached his knees, and while years before gift opening took hours, in Cairo gifts were open and we were snuggled up for a morning of baked oatmeal and book reading by 9:00 a.m. But never once did he complain. The phrase “are there any more gifts for me?” never once passed his lips.

So as we walked to the school bus last week, I floated the idea that even though we are back in the United States now, maybe we would still celebrate an “Egyptian” style Christmas. I would love to be able to report that Owen was joyful in his response. Maybe I will just say that the conversation continues.

It has been years now since we stopped buying physical gifts for adult members of our extended family. We realized that all of the adults in our lives were able to buy whatever they wanted for themselves at any point throughout the year. December was spent either in perfunctory online shopping for exactly what someone had requested or wandering the aisles of downtown department stores or the mall hoping to find something that someone wouldn’t hate (or exchange).

So alternative giving has become our tradition. And we are excited to be able to do that shopping this year at the Bryn Mawr Advent Gift Market.

Of course all of us have our favorite charities that we choose to give to. We may also have favorite “alternative” gifts that make meaningful gestures at the end of the year.

What I am looking forward to this year is “shopping” at the BMPC Advent Gift Market, knowing that so many of the organizations that the AGM offers are organizations that have strong connections to the mission history AND mission future of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

Buying “books” to support the work of WePac to reopen libraries in Philadelphia’s public schools means celebrating the longstanding commitment that this community of faith has with West Philadelphia. Funding a community organizer for a day with Connexion Mosaico means confirming a new and exciting mission partner in Mexico City. I could go on and on listing how worthy and exciting each of these partners and opportunities are for us as a congregation. You can check out a full list of the potential gifts here in a short video.

Obviously I want to encourage each of us to make the Advent Gift Market a part of our gift giving this year. But I especially want to encourage you to join us THIS Sunday, November 22, in Congregational Hall as we gather to celebrate the mission partnerships of this congregation. Many of our Councils have invited representatives from the organizations who they have chosen to come and share their story with you.

If you can’t join us this Sunday, there will be a table in the Court each Sunday in Advent so that you might shop and pick up greeting cards throughout the season. For the first time, the entire selection of alternative gifts is also available to be purchased from our church website by clicking here.

This Sunday I think we will continue our family conversation as we attend the Advent Gift Market with our son Owen, asking him to help us pick out gifts for the adults in his life and hopefully thinking even more earnestly about how we celebrate Christmas in our new home here in Bryn Mawr.