by Sharei Green

I’m that person. I love Christmas. Like really love Christmas. People have even compared me to Buddy from the movie “Elf.”



But beyond the lights, trees and music, my true excitement is for Advent, the time of expectant waiting before Christmas–the season of hope.

During this time, I reflect on the assurance that Christ has already come and died and risen so that we may have eternal life. This is often a time where I ask myself how I can put my faith in Jesus into action.

Sharing and giving

Gift-giving has long been part of our celebration of Christmas. Businesses around the world look forward to the financial boost that the holiday season brings. An overemphasis on shopping and spending can make us feel that we have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas – but we can turn that around.

Support Lutheran Disaster Response through Women of the ELCA

Every cent of your gift will be passed on to Lutheran Disaster Response. Make out your check to Women of the ELCA and write “Lutheran Disaster Response: Hurricane Matthew” on the memo line. You can give it to your congregational unit’s treasurer or mail it to:

Women of the ELCA
ELCA Gift Processing Center
P.O. Box 1809
Merrifield VA 2116-8009

One Advent practice I am taking on is to count every purchase I make this holiday season and tuck away $2 per purchase. On Christmas Day, I will donate that sum to Lutheran Disaster Response for the Hurricane Matthew recovery work. I’ve chosen this because the storm impacted so many. I followed the hurricane as it ripped through the Caribbean and watched as many communities in the United States braced themselves for its impact. Because the hurricane is so recent, thousands of families will spend this Christmas away from their homes.

Because of my work for Lutheran Disaster Response, I hear the stories of how this disaster has affected millions of people. I also know that the recovery, especially for the most vulnerable, will take many, many years.

Lutheran Disaster Response’s mission is to bring God’s hope, healing and renewal to people whose lives have been disrupted by disasters in the United States and around the world. Since Advent is a season of hope, I feel that giving to this organization is particularly timely.

Here are three ways to give during Advent:

Treasure: Shop local

Shopping in local small businesses can help stimulate the economy in your own community, save fuel and support neighbors who work for these businesses. Also, because of the seasonal rush, many companies hire extra staff,

providing employment for a parent or a college student who might not have it otherwise.

Talent: Spiritual gifts

communitymeal350Let us also remember that giving is not always about things or money. We can also give of our time and our talents. Are we doing all we can with our spiritual gifts? One way to hold ourselves accountable for using our God-given gifts during Advent is to dedicate an hour or a day to intentionally using our spiritual gifts – one for every material gift we buy.

Women of the ELCA’s spiritual gifts assessment told me that one of my gifts is service. I am really good at behind-the-scenes coordination. This year, I plan to help coordinate several outreach opportunities with my congregation, one being our annual Christmas community meal.

In my family, gathering for the holidays at grandma’s house was sacred. It was when we caught up on current events, saw how much the newest baby had grown, to laugh, to pray. I want to help bring the spirit of that gathering to those who come to share a meal with our congregation – not just to meet the basic physical need for food, but to get to know our neighbors as people, to laugh and pray with them.

Time: Advocacy

The ELCA Racial Justice and Young Adult desks, along with the ELCA Advocacy office, created #ELCAvotes to talk about the importance of voting faithfully. Even now that the 2016 national election is over, our work is not done. It is important that we continue the work of #ELCAvotes, encouraging our neighbors to take part in local advocacy and political events.

I always thought that the separation of church and state should apply not only to the larger government, but to my personal civic life. I thought that my religious views shouldn’t affect the way I vote. As I’ve grown in faith, I’ve found that I cannot and should not wall off my faith, especially when it comes to using my voice in our democracy. This year’s presidential election showed me the importance of standing together as one body of Christ and using our right to vote.

As I prepare for my favorite holiday, I can be intentional about putting my faith into action. Whether I am making a positive contribution to my local economy through shopping, sharing my time with members of my community or using my voice to stand up for others, all of these things help to prepare my mind and heart to receive the gift of Christ’s birth.

Discussion questions:

1. What does “expectant waiting” mean to you? How do you celebrate this during Advent?

2. How might you apply one of the examples listed above during this season? Or what things do you do and how do they apply in your context?

3. If Jesus were to come back today, would you be ready? Why did you answer this way?

Closing prayer:

Hey God,
I am constantly in awe of you. You love us so much. And without our deserving it, you sent Jesus to us, to show us the way to you. As we celebrate this gift, we ask that you open our hearts, that we might share our gifts with our neighbors, that they might see you in us. Guide our steps as we set out to do your work and shield our hearts from those who might discourage us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sharei Green, a native of Chicago, is a leader in her church, exploring the unique dynamics of being Black, woman and Lutheran. After earning her bachelor’s degree in business management from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, she worked briefly in corporate America, where she learned that her true passion was ministry. She currently works as the program communicator for Lutheran Disaster Response, where her passion for writing is lived out daily.

This post first appeared in the December 2016 issue.

Photos by Used with permission.