This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest who raises money for the homeless and lives on a horse farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering daily meditations and reflections
A bunch of new friends came to Little Bird Farm this week to discuss life. I had made a new tea pot and another friend had made these new cups. So we seven celebrated creativity and had a big tea with hot corn bread, marmalade and honey. We talked and laughed and cried a bit. We wondered together about Christmas in Advent.
We were discussing the madness “out there.” Everyone is zipping around buying things for Christmas. We were seven people, and all of us agreed that there must be another way to do this holiday than gift giving. I mean we love giving presents but wondered out loud if there might be another way to give gifts. Our voices lowered, I noticed, during this part of the conversation, as if we were discussing Shabbat in 1943 Berlin. Sotto voce. It felt subversive somehow.
I was a bit testy because I had been making pots for my Christmas presents – mugs and tea bowls, tea pots and scotch cups. And then I asked a question. “What do you wish we all exchanged at this time of year?” I mean, we had identified the problem which seemed to be malls and catalogues, shopping lists and useless presents. But we had no real solution. There was a long silence while we sipped our ginger honey tea (laced heavily with scotch or lavender syrup in some cases.) We ate more hot cornbread and loaded it up with warm butter. I got strawberry jam. It seemed like the long silence needed calories. Or sugar. Or both.
Then slowly, tremulously, someone said “experience.” People grumbled. “No! Really. I want to receive experiences for Christmas.” Feeling a little like we had all just been dropped into a Christmas Anne-of-Green Gables TV Special, none of us wanted to blurt out that merchandise is quite nice. So we were respectfully silent. Pious even. “
We spent the next few hours talking about this as the New Mexican sun set, painting the sky pink and powder-blue. We wondered what Christmas would be like this year if we each gave experiences and not just gifts this year. Some of us live near our family and others do not so the experience was not always “with” us. But it was always “through” us.
Here is what each of us came up with came up with:
- I plan to send pottery to each of my family and closes friends, but each pot will have recipes from my mother or me and in some cases, gift certificates for groceries, so that the pottery can serve a meal they cook together and eat or drink together.
- Sarah says she plans to send pottery lesson gift certificates and a meal together afterwards to discuss the experience.
- John plans to send his close family and friends a redeemable gift certificate for him to make one meal at their home (he lives nearby his family.)
- James will be writing a short play, sending it to his family and a few friends and hosting a dinner in which they all play a role written for them and he cooks a meal from the play’s content. He has a play in mind which revolves around an Italian meal…so he will make one.
- Sally will send art supplies to her family and friends inviting them to paint her a picture as their gift to her next year.
- Jonas will be researching and sending a list of trails to his younger family who like to hike and will pledge a hiking snack mailed to them in Minnesota every quarter for their hikes. He makes amazing power-bars with seasonal dried fruits. He is very gifted. It’s a bit annoying.
- Mary is sending a puzzle to her family and close friends. They like them. She will then call the Chinese restaurants where the recipients live and have Chinese take-out sent to them on the specific night they tell her they are gathering to begin the puzzle.
It was an inspiring night of conversation over tea with my new tea pot and Dianne’s new cups. It made me wonder if Advent might be very creative? Could we use this season of birthing and midwifery to create…to birth real and creative gifts? Could we gift creation as we celebrate God’s choice to send such a creative experience as incarnation? Or is it really to be more stuff? Might we give gifts of experience this year?