Today's post is brought to you by Chase Andre. Enjoy!
"Happy Birthday Jesus!" reads the illuminated sign that casts a light across the 405 Freeway this time a year. Below the sign stands the headquarters for the largest Christian television network in the world. Directly across the 12 lanes of traffic stands South Coast Plaza: Orange County's ritziest of mega-shopping centers.
The two seem to face each other, and dual out "The Real Meaning of Christmas" every year.
"Presents and Holiday Deals!" screams the one, in bright fluorescent.
"Keep Christ in Christmas!" the other matches its electric tone.
This banter happens like clockwork (Well, that's not entirely true. It seems to start earlier and earlier every year. I believe I started seeing "Holiday Special!" sales in August, and my pastor started his "Nativity Series" in mid-September this year...I digress). Either way, you can count on seeing it.
I have to admit, though, I tend to dread it. Not to get all Charlie Brown Christmas on you, but I don't think either sides of this debate is "the true meaning of Christmas." The whole thing makes my head spin, and to be honest, I get downright Scroogey. Or maybe Grinchy. Depends on the mood; or how many @JimCarey tweets I've read.
But this season, I heard a statistic that put legs to my Bah-Humbug.
In fact, I became downright... disturbed.
Every year, Americans spend $450 Billion on Christmas.
Only $10 Billion of that would solve the Clean Water Crisis, Globally.
That same crisis that is claiming 42,000 lives a week.
What does this mean? It means that if we all shaved roughly 20% of our Holiday budget from ourselves and gave it away, we could give life to nearly a billion people who live without this Basic Need. But what do we do instead? Buy Toys and Tinsel.
(Excuse me sir...your Grinch is showing.)
Despite my flaring Bah-Humbugs, Hope has grown in me this year. It's a Hope that comes from the promising prospect of Change; and not the kind offered by any politician.
Instead, what I see is young people, like ourselves, who are beginning to take Jesus at His words:
"Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." (Matt 25:40)
As Travis mentioned, a group of friends and I went out on Black Friday to remind folks of the tangible impact their money could have on their Global Neighbors. We started a Facebook Event Page for what we were doing and it spread to more than 3000 invitees, and over 600 positive responses from around the country.
When you hold a protest/picket/whathaveyou such as this, you never truly know what the response will be. Overall, our small group (around 10 friends who banded with us in our area between the hours of midnight and 9am), was very well received.
One man, in line for the midnight opening of Toys'R'Us, stopped in his tracks. You could see on his face that what our cardboard signs stated disturbed him, too. "$20 could provide clean water for a person in a third world country for 20 years? I have to give!" Immediately, he pulled out his iPhone and tapped in www.water4christmas.com: "I'm donating right now!" he told us, before he crossed the store's threshold.
Another, about my age, sprinted out of Best Buy at around 5:30am with a flat screen TV under his arm, and a grin-of-victory spread across his face. I offered him a bottle of water, and told him why we were out there when he asked.
"You need to get laid, bro," came his response.
I gave him a bottle of water anyway. He accepted, without breaking stride. As he rushed off to wherever he was rushing to before sunrise, I called out, "And, uh...I hope...that TV, gets you... laid?"
Humorous as I found it, I was saddened to know that is the gauge-of-success much of our culture carries. It affirmed why my friends and I were out there.
Yet with every story like that, we find stories of Hope and change.
For example: a friend, Brandt Russo, is fasting from all food until he raises $15,500 "to help Ryan Alexander of Not Fashionable in his quest to end hunger by helping him provide medicine to deworm 1,000,000 children." (To find out how you can help Brandt in his Operation:STARVATION, or learn more about the cause, click here)
We all know that this stuff -- the toys, and tinsel, and TVs -- won't last. Nor will they bring us anything but momentary happiness. Yet, year after year, we persist to buy them.
If I could make one request, it would be this: Give Life. This Christmas, let's not get wrapped up in the ribbons and glitter and electric allure of the Sales and Specials. Let's not say "Happy Birthday, Jesus" and do nothing to offer him a drink of water (See Matthew 25:40-46).
Instead, let's realize how greatly our blessings & excess could impact another. We could save lives. If the Hope for Change I see rising is a trend here to stay, then Save Lives, we will.
"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Merry Christmas, Friends.
"Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 8:14, as told by Linus.
Photo Credit: Sarah Jean Photo