It is estimated that in 2011, $450 billion was spent on Christmas in the United States. It was also estimated that in 2011, the cost of providing everyone on the planet sustainable access to clean drinking water was $20 billion.
Yup, you read those numbers right.
Last month the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs released a report detailing, among other things, the “food security” (defined as having, “enough nutritious food, through socially acceptable means, to support a healthy lifestyle”) of Kansas residents. The study found that here in Leavenworth County, 19.5 percent of children are food insecure. Nearly 1 in 5 kids in our county don’t have access to the food they need to support a healthy lifestyle.
Yup, you read that right, too.
Although it doesn’t include angels or shepherds or wise men and Mary and Joseph don’t even make an appearance, one of my favorite versions of the Christmas story comes from the fourth chapter of 1 John. A couple of excerpts ... “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (verse 9). “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” (verse 11).
God’s love for us was so vast that God sent Jesus to be born among us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
As the title of Rev. Mike Slaughter’s 2011 book suggests, “Christmas is Not Your Birthday.” And so I confess that I struggle this time of year. I want to give my wife and kids and everyone in our family and all of our friends special gifts. I want to receive special gifts, too! At the same time, I want to be a part of something (a family, a church, a community) that shares God’s love with the world in ways that make a difference.
And so I invite you to struggle with me this year. I invite you to think about the numbers shared above. And I invite you to think about the way that you and your family will choose to celebrate the gift of Christmas, the birth of Jesus “so that we might live through him” and so that because of God’s love we might love one another.
— Clinger is pastor at Tonganoxie United Methodist Church