This year my wife and I are trying to be conscious of where we are spending our Christmas money. We have a set budget, and we are deliberately trying to spend as much of it as possible either locally, or with small artisans. It’s our personal challenge to ourselves to try to support small businesses.
We bought candles at one of my parishioner’s shops. We decorated with a Vermont-made wreath from our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. And we found a shop on Etsy that sent us a handmade ornament for our tree, complete with our names and wedding date, to celebrate our first married Christmas. As we head into the homestretch, we are thinking of choices we could make next year to support other small businesses.
You might wonder what this has to do with faith, or with Advent.
For us, where we spend our money is more than an economic choice. It’s a theological one. I can’t say that Billy Graham and I agree on everything, but I do think he was right when he said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” The way we think about the money we have, and where we spend it, says a great deal about us.
We often get nervous when theology and money intersect, and often for good reason. But, what if we used our faith to inform our decisions about what we would use our money to support? If we say that we follow a faith that teaches us to love our neighbors, why do we drive past our neighbors’ stores because we can find something slightly cheaper at the Wal-Mart? If we say we follow a faith that teaches us justice, why do we buy things made in sweatshops overseas?
Most of us do more discretionary spending around Christmas time than we do any other time of the year. So this time of year is when our economic decisions could have the greatest impact on others. And conveniently, it’s Advent, which means it is the time of year when we are called to prayerfully reflect on the coming of Christ and what he would teach us. And, if we claim to celebrate his birth, how can we ignore the teachings of the man that child grew up to be?
The Gospel isn’t divorced from any part of our lives, including the part that has to do with our wallet. And there’s no better time to start thinking about how to live into that Gospel in our economic lives than Advent.