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Christmas Tag

“Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord.”

It’s advent, and as we belt out that wonderful hymn, Mary’s Magnificat reminds us of the importance of sharing our stories of what God has done amongst us.

At UnitingWorld, we gather stories everywhere we go. Wonderful, inspiring, heart-wrenching stories – but always stories that point to the infinite grace and outrageous generosity of God. And of course, these are not our stories to keep. Just as when we go out to our partners and supporters, we go on your behalf, the stories we bring back are to share with you.

We need these stories. They nourish us and connect us with the body of Christ across the world. When we are feeling tired and lost, that we haven’t seen God at work recently, when the service we offer God feels like it makes no difference, we need to hear and tell these stories. They remind us of the power and faithfulness of God. Throughout the year, I’ve listened to countless stories of God at work in the world – both here in Australia and among our partners. And I’ve come to realise how much we need them.

When we get too caught up in our own picture of God, when we try and box God up into something we understand – we need to hear these stories. Stories that blow our minds with the unfathomable grace and radical generosity of God.

When we are close to despair, when suffering and pain has worn down our faith – then we need these stories. Stories that show how God is with us, remind us of hope and point to the dawn to come. Stories that teach us new ways to think, new ways to imagine, new ways to connect.

These stories bring us good news from far away places, so we can celebrate and give thanks. These stories bring us news of pain or need in other places, so we can share what we have. These stories bring us new ways of knowing God and each other, so we can grow stronger in faith.

Thank you for listening to the voices of our brothers and sisters in South Sudan, Vanuatu, India, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and many other places this year. I am grateful beyond words for your prayers, gifts and loving action.

On behalf of all the UnitingWorld team, we wish love and joy to you and your families and hope you have a very happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.

With hope,

Sureka

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld

 


Read our Annual Report FY 2018-2019

We are thrilled to report that through our programs, our partners reached 202,305 men, women and children last year with tangible benefits. Educating women and girls, lifting families out of poverty through small business, access to nutrition, healthcare and education, preventing trafficking all are part of the real impact of our work. Thank you for the critical part you played.

The Annual Report is a great way to see the impact of our shared partnership in mission and your role in making it happen. It features a ‘year at a glance,’ updates from our Board Chair and National Director; stories of impact across each of the thematic areas of our programs; news and financials, and much more!

Download and read here

We all say Christmas isn’t about the presents, and we mean it.

Ask around. It’s about family and friends, our neighbourhoods buzzing with community spirit, parents belting out Michael Bublé or Mariah Carey to annoy their children…

It’s about being present. A time to come together, sharing our lives in kindness and gratitude.

So why do we still buy so much stuff?

Each year, we’re confronted by the enormous and growing commercial enterprise Christmas has become. A season of hyper-consumption fed by accelerated production the world over.

We eat more, travel more, buy more and produce 30% more waste than at any other time of the year. Every December in Australia, we give an average of 20 million gifts that are unwanted and at least half of them quickly end up in landfill.

No wonder it’s been described as the world’s greatest annual environmental disaster.

We all want to be generous during our favourite time of year, but collectively our Christmas giving creates pollution and waste that has a huge environmental impact.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to be generous without more stuff, more waste and more CO2 in the atmosphere.

One way to think about it, is that every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.

Here’s six gift ideas that don’t cost the planet.

1. Gifts that fight poverty

Think of charitable organisations that reflect the values of your loved ones (like us!). Donate in their honour or give a poverty-fighting gift that can change a life. What could be a better gift than clean water to a community that doesn’t have it? Or income opportunities like goats and pig-farming to help a struggling family secure their future?

Check out our full catalogue of life-changing gifts here. They come as gift cards with envelopes, or you can even go completely digital and send via email.

2. Give an experience

Theatre, concerts, workshops, community and cultural events often fly under the radar because there’s so much competing for our attention each week.

People say rock is dead and nimbys killed live music, but that will only happen if people stop going! The first step is getting some tickets…

Give someone an escape from the office to places like this urban farm that runs useful workshops on organic gardening, pickling and preserving, beekeeping and how to make things like beeswax wraps and hand-carved kitchen utensils.

Or give an experience outdoors with eco/wildlife tours, kayaking, canyoning, snorkelling (or shark dive, anyone?)


(her face)

… or stay inside give a voucher for a massage or foodie restaurant experience and support local businesses.

3. Give plants

Visit a local community market, there’s usually great plants for great prices. Find some nice pots (second-hand/recycled even) to put them in. Give them to loved ones and they’ll grow into some really thoughtful and unique gifts. You can even pair it with a gift card that supports tree-planting projects in the Pacific and Indonesia!

4. Give time

It’s an absurdity of modern life that despite all our technological advancements – still we work more. Pledging your time could be a thoughtful and useful gift.

Maybe your in-laws could use some extended babysitting to get away for the day? Perhaps your dad can’t get up the ladder to do the gutters any more? Or your partner has been meaning to get their bike serviced but hasn’t had the time to do it?

Imagine asking your grandma if your gift this year can be time spent helping her with the garden…

Yes, you should do these things anyway, so why don’t you?

You could even pledge your time in a card with an explanation and deadline, so they know you mean business.

5. Buy second-hand

Fifty dollars for a T-shirt? Nah mate.

Buying at your local op shop saves you money, cuts down consumer demand for stuff to be produced and supports organisations making positive change in the world. That’s something to dance about.

Onto Gumtree yet? It’s a brilliant place to save a few second-hand treasures from landfill to be re-gifted.

6. Buy local, buy sustainable

Want to reduce your global impact? Think local. Buy from local small businesses, craftspeople, those grandmas selling delicious jams at the school fete. Stuff that hasn’t been shipped across half the world to arrive under your tree.

Why not bake something yourself? Rise up a whole army of gingerbread men to scale a pyramid of brownies.

Go old-school. Homemade Christmas puddings still haven’t gone out of fashion. Be inspired by this brilliant non-profit pudding venture.

There’s so many zero waste, reusable gifts out there: keep cups, reusable bags, bamboo toothbrushes, wallets made from recycled paper! Check out this Zero Waste Christmas Guide by UnitingEarth.

Vote for a better world with your choices this Christmas.

Disclaimer: vote with your whole community. We know that to overcome the global challenges we face, individual action isn’t enough. We also need drastic changes to our social, political and economic systems to mitigate the climate crisis ahead.

This global problem requires global action.

Truly purposive action is holistic – individual behavioural change leading to important ‘awkward conversations’ in our communities, plus collective action aiming to influence widespread societal change.

The choices we make as consumers have already been influencing producers, but there’s a long way to go.

We each have the power to make a difference and it can start this Christmas.

This blog was inspired by an internal conversation among UnitingWorld staff to share sustainable Christmas gift ideas. Credit to everyone who fed the great discussion.

– Marcus

See how UnitingWorld and our partners are taking action on climate change and its impacts in the Pacific.

“You got me a what?”

Uncle Earl is squinting at your card, breath a little yeasty from the Christmas pudding, and frankly, he’s disappointed. It was socks he wanted. Seriously. Socks. Or a fishing magazine. He also had his eye on a new case for his iphone.

You got him a goat.

“Well, it’s for a family in Zimbabwe, see?” you tell him, a little flustered. “They’ll breed the goats and with the money they can get for them at the market, they’ll send their kids to school. It’s pretty cool, actually.”

Uncle Earl looks sceptical. He doesn’t actually say it, but what he’s thinking – you can see it on his face – is: “So you got me nothing. You got them goats, but you got me nothing.”

Let’s face it: not everyone loves goats, and not everyone gets the idea that you bought them something for someone else. (And actually, some people genuinely need socks).

So here you are, with your desire to do something to change the world this Christmas, and a cranky Uncle. What to do… what to do?

Look, buy Uncle Earl the socks. Buy your seven year old nephew that game he wanted, but maybe not the really flashy one. And tell him the true story of a gift that transforms lives.  Start it with the birth of a child.  But don’t end it there.

Tell him about Amos, who’ll spend the days before Christmas in his ute in South Sudan, bucketing along some of the worst roads you can imagine. He’s travelling to spend time in communities who’ve seen their neighbours literally torn apart by violence. This is Amos’ whole life’s work, devoted to helping people understand and listen to one another, learning to forgive and move on from decades of a war that doesn’t just live in army fatigues but stalks people’s homes and lives in people’s minds. This gift of reconciliation – a microcosm of something even grander – is the ongoing story that begins with the cradle.

If the people you know and love won’t appreciate the idea behind a goat, don’t give up. Simply make your donation directly to the work of someone who continues to live the Christmas story – every day, in some of the  most difficult parts of our globe.

Christmas isn’t just about making sure your nearest and dearest have everything they need. Christmas is about being swept up in a powerful gift of love and sharing that as far and wide as you can.  Every single one of us.

If goats are your thing and also Uncle Earl’s – check out our gifts here at www.everythingincommon.com

If you want to be generous because it’s Christmas and you believe in a world less hungry and more hopeful, please give here.  https://www.unitingworld.org.au/donate

Either way, know that you’ve honoured the Giver.  Thank you so much.

Coming soon:

Questions my hairdresser asks: how do you even know they get the money?