“unWrapping and Giving Away CHRISTmas 2010”

Hello All,

Over the past six or seven years, I have been deeply challenged to try and live and give the real heart of CHRISTmas to those I encounter during the Holiday season. For me growing up with my parents and brothers, and for my own family and kids today, I’ll be honest, CHRISTmas has always been a wonderful and special time of the year full of some of the warmest memories that I have. However, I realize that is not the case for everyone, perhaps for most. CHRISTmas can be a terribly lonely time of the year and a time that many relive difficult issues of sharing kid/parent times or missing loved ones that have passed away. Furthermore, most of the world’s population struggles to simply keep themselves fed and have decent water to drink, much less worried about how long the shops are open with the sales of iPods, iPads and i-Can’t even begin to list all the things we try and wrap for ourselves under the tree. I’m not a Santa hater nor am I one who would desire to boycott Christmas, but I am definitely one who’s passionate about reminding the world around me in a loving way that CHRISTmas is about THE ORIGINAL GIFT, that God blessed creation with in a special way when He sent His Son Jesus on that original Christmas day!

unWrapping Christmas: I’ve tried to be creative in communicating what CHRISTmas is truly about; Jesus, “the true GIFT” of CHRISTmas, thus the theme of unWrapping CHRISTmas with less influence of TV commercials, shopping, toys and gifts under a tree, and much more emphasis in communicating that Jesus’ being born into humanity is the ultimate gift to unWrap and get to know in life. A great thing about that is that you won’t get a credit card bill in January to pay for the gift of Jesus either, He paid the price in full and graced us with Himself!

Giving Away CHRISTmas: The past two years in particular, my family and I have tried to be very proactive in “Giving Away CHRISTmas”, meaning finding ways to bless and give to others instead of being focused on gifts under the tree with our name on them. In Switzerland, it’s not that we have so many homeless and needy out there in “our clean and proper cities” that are easily seen, but truly we have more than we realize that are really in need around us….if we look hard enough and find creative ways to seek those in need out. Aside of the “near needs” there is always the “far needs”, and numerous ministries and organizations that we can partnership with to help other families, not only have a better CHRISTmas season, but perhaps an overall improvement in their daily livelihood the rest of their year(s) as well.

Here’s THE ORIGINAL GIFT’s birth announcement as recorded in Luke 2:10-14

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
There are still a few days left, what might you do to still “Give Away CHRISTmas yourself this year? Taking gifts to others? Serving at a food distribution place? Adding “Jesus is the reason to the season” to your (work) e-mails instead of X-Mas? Inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service (which LIFT is having one)? Connecting with a long ago family member or friend that you need reconciliation with? Bringing a guest to your Christmas meal, even if they aren’t family?

Click reply and send me your creative ideas as well!

In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
Corey
www.liveitandgiveit.org

PS- HOW CAN WE unWrap and Give Away CHRISTmas?
Below are several ideas from many of you readers from last year and also some recently when I asked for ideas from my Facebook page. I thank the many that sent their great insight and ideas in how they or their family also try to seek ways to bless others this time of year versus being focused on a gift under the tree with your name on it. Below in blue font is a selection of many of these responses with some minor editing (denoted with an *) to keep the focus on the ideas and not the people.

Some 2010 Suggestions:

http://donate.compassion.com/pig-farming

Donate a Pig to a Family in Poverty When you help provide a pig for a family in poverty you are providing a source of income which then enables moms and dads to provide food for their children.

http://www.worldvisionmicro.org/

www.oneacrefund.org

www.Kiva.org – great way to help someone raise themselves out of poverty!

www.andreasgift.org.uk

www.madeleinechildrensfund.com

Some 2009 Ideas and Suggestions:

Hey man this was awesome. We have three children* and we are going to have each one pick out a gift, wrap it, and try to deliver it to a family in need, or give it to a charity toy drop off.
————–
What a wonderful message! It did me good reading it. Two weeks ago we had a discussion about the chidren’s* “old” toys and instead of selling them on the internet* and getting money for it, we would like to give them to the Gemeinde Sozialabteilung (local village’s social welfare office*). We’re also discussing the food matter as we are sure that here in (our village*) there are families who have no chance to celebrate Christmas with some good food and to enjoy Christmas because they are struggeling with everything.
————————–
We absolutely love and look forward to Christmas because it’s all about giving although the world has turned it the other way around. Our child recently celebrated with a birthday party with friends from his/her* current & former school. For the party, instead of having presents and all, our child* had all the guests make a donation to the school’s Ghana charity fund, which funds the running of a school in Ghana. I hope this will not end here, as I will create albums & info sites and send it with a thank you to those who came, so they can continue to be updated by the progress of the Ghana school and perhaps support it again in the future.

Being a child once myself, I can understand how important presents are to kids and as parent’s* were very pleased to see our child* give instead of take, and use the birthday party as a way to raise awareness & funds for those who need it. God is indeed great and church has played a great role in shaping our child* as well. My grandma raised me with a thought – “To be able to give – that’s the greatest blessing.” So I hope that this is passed on to my child*.

The other idea which we all had was to have a birthday party at an orphanage, where all the guests bring gifts for the kids at the orphanage instead of the birthday child. That doesn’t just stop there as the kids would be encouraged to continue their friendship and to really be a friend to the kids at the orphanage, so like writing to each other and all that. This too can be used for a Christmas party, where we can share the real Gift – Jesus.
——————————–
I used to work for a Greek shipping company and every Christmas, we send out Christmas greetings to all our partners, clients, suppliers and friends, and tell them we have donated to charities the money which we would have used to buy the cards & pay for the postage. That was quite a bit which would have been spent on cards and postage, so it was good to see that the money went to children’s homes and cancer charities instead… and the cost for sending out the thousands of greetings out – zilch. :) … oh yeah… less trees cut down too, so also protecting God’s creation.
————
I love your words “giving away”. I often hear our child* say these words. As a matter of fact, she wrote a paper about a famous person* and in her opening paragraph she wrote something like this “this person* loved peace and gave it away….”

In our home country*, we, as a family always tried to do some kind of little family fundraiser and pass the money onto the orphanages in Russia. This always was a big deal for us, but last year here, I had a tough time trying to figure out what to do and let our little family tradition go past us. The last year we were in our homeland*, we had an art show. one of our children* is a very good artist, but other made a bunch of pictures, too. I put borders on all of them and hung them in our dining room. We invited lots of neighbors and friends and collected donations for each “piece” of art. We donated all the money to an organization that builds playgrounds in orphanages in Russia. Now, our second year, here, and I’m still thinking about this and maybe will try to do something in the New year.
—————————–
Cool message! For several years in a row my siblings* and I were buying Christmas gifts for each other, and for each our spouses. There are 6 of us in total. We all attend the same church in our homeland*, and they often have various organizations in need around Christmas time. About 5 years ago we decided we truly didn’t need anything material for Christmas, and that we would much prefer to take all of the money we would spend on each other (+ some extra), and we sponsor a family that is in need. While I was there last we all* took a day and went and did all the shopping together. We really enjoyed spending the time together, and we were so happy to do something that would make someone else’s Christmas morning special. Obviously, I am now just a monetary contributor, but the “tradition” remains. Our kids visibly see that we don’t have gifts from each other, and it a good opportunity to explain to them what we are doing and why. We certainly aren’t “special” for doing this – as lots of people all over the world do it – but I have to say I don’t miss the gifts under the tree at all, and it is such a peaceful feeling to know someone else is having a special day.
That said we have struggled to find a way to really instill it in our kids – so I love the ideas you have! Can’t wait to see the others.
————————
This year compassion international has a “what I want for christmas” program. They send you a child that needs a sponser (at the end of NOv) for you to pray for during the holidays and try to find a sponser for. We are doing that and the kids are really praying for (*our child we sponsor). Also we do one of the toy programs for kids that wouldn’t get anything, each child fills a shoebox. Also we have some Christmas books we read
———

Working with and helping the mentally and physically challenged is a real blessing because they really appreciate the love. I use to volunteer with the Special Olympics * and continue to help out a workshop/day center.

Another things is to give to the Messianic Congregations in Eretz Israel. They have Arab, Jewish and others that have paid dearly to become believers in the Messiah. As you know both the Arabs and Jews families write their family members off when they put their faith in Jesus.

Recently some congregations have been firebombed, vandalized and have had the anti-missionary groups riot in front of their places of worship. They really need our prayer and physical support (even visits). Consider standing with them as they need to know that other believers care about them in their time of need. Especially now..

Keeping the light(s) in this world,

———————————
A cool idea that we have used in the past is to give specific gifts from the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog, in someone else’s name, as an honorary gift to them (SP sends an honor or memory card explaining the gift). This works well for grandkids to give to their grandparents, for example. See https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
e.g.
$4 for milk for a child for a week
$9 to feed a hungry baby for a week
$10 for a mosquito net to prevent malaria
$14 for a dozen baby chicks
It’s also available in British pounds here: http://www.giftcatalogue.org.uk/
——————–
We’ve done Operation Christmas Child via ISZL for the past two years (isn’t that cool that the international schools sponsor such a Christian thing!? I wonder whether they realize!), and we also were able to do it through our homeland* as well. Have been blessed to sponsor Compassion children for 20 years this year.
—————
My Dad just came back from some ministry* outreaches where he was telling Hindu Indians about what Christmas is all about. Sharing our “Dad time” over the Christmas break is one way that we give Christmas away. Another way is that we’ve always had a stocking for Jesus. So there are 7 stockings at our fireplace: one for every family member, plus one for Jesus. We kids grew up putting poems for Jesus, letters for Jesus, and money for Jesus in the stocking. We then take the money to church as offering, or give the money to missions/the poor. We also bake traditional Swiss Christmas cookies for all of our neighbors. Some of them wait all year for our cookie bags! Most of these neighbors don’t yet know the Lord, but they all know that we are Christians, and they respect us for it… I think they’re glad we take Christmas so seriously because it means they get yummy cookies (hehe), but it’s also a nice way of reaching out to them and going to their homes to deliver the cookies… We have interesting conversations with them each time.

“Giving Away CHRISTmas! Part 2”

Hello All,
 
I just got back yesterday from an event (a CHRISTmas party) with my company’s UK partner in Cardiff, Wales.  It was such a blessing that Tanya was able to come with me and we even slipped in a bit of time at the big shopping mall near our hotel.  Wow, it was like one foot back in the USA as this mall was not like the Swiss “malls” around Zug….or even Zurich.  While impressive and full of people as this place was only a few days before Christmas, it was a clear reminder again of what the world around us thinks Christmas (or X-mas as most of the signs indicated) is all about; shopping for gifts and the guy in the red suit named Santa.  We even saw several Santa’s around, one in particular giving away the “ISSUE” newspaper to all that walked by.  I’m not a Santa hater nor am I one who would desire to boycott Christmas, but I am definately one who’s passionate about reminding the world around me in a loving way that CHRISTmas is about THE ORIGINAL GIFT, that God blessed creation in a special way with His Son Jesus on that original Christmas day! 
 
Here’s THE ORIGINAL GIFT’s birth announcement as recorded in Luke 2:10-14
 
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
 

In continuation from the last LIFT update regarding “Giving Away CHRISTmas”, I thank the many that sent their great insight and ideas in how you or your family can also try to seek ways to bless others this time of year versus being focused on a gift under the tree with your name on it. Below in blue font is a selection of many of these responses with some minor editing (denoted with an *) to keep the focus on the ideas and not the people.   
 
 —————–

Hey man this was awesome.  We have three children* and we are going to have each one pick out a gift, wrap it, and try to deliver it to a family in need, or give it to a charity toy drop off.

————– 
 
What a wonderful message! It did me good reading it. Two weeks ago we had a discussion about the chidren’s* “old” toys and instead of selling them on the internet* and getting money for it, we would like to give them to the Gemeinde  Sozialabteilung (local village’s social welfare office*).  We’re also discussing the food matter as we are sure that here in (our village*) there are families who have no chance to celebrate Christmas with some good food and to enjoy Christmas because they are struggeling with everything.

 
————————–
 
We absolutely love and look forward to Christmas because it’s all about giving although the world has turned it the other way around. Our child recently celebrated with a birthday party with friends from his/her* current & former school. For the party, instead of having presents and all, our child* had all the guests make a donation to the school’s Ghana charity fund, which funds the running of a school in Ghana. I hope this will not end here, as I will create albums & info sites and send it with a thank you to those who came, so they can continue to be updated by the progress of the Ghana school and perhaps support it again in the future.

Being a child once myself, I can understand how important presents are to kids and as parent’s* were very pleased to see our child* give instead of take, and use the birthday party as a way to raise awareness & funds for those who need it. God is indeed great and church has played a great role in shaping our child* as well. My grandma raised me with a thought – “To be able to give – that’s the greatest blessing.” So I hope that this is passed on to my child*.

The other idea which we all had was to have a birthday party at an orphanage, where all the guests bring gifts for the kids at the orphanage instead of the birthday child. That doesn’t just stop there as the kids would be encouraged to continue their friendship and to really be a friend to the kids at the orphanage, so like writing to each other and all that. This too can be used for a Christmas party, where we can share the real Gift – Jesus.

——————————–

I used to work for a Greek shipping company and every Christmas, we send out Christmas greetings to all our partners, clients, suppliers and friends, and tell them we have donated to charities the money which we would have used to buy the cards & pay for the postage. That was quite a bit which would have been spent on cards and postage, so it was good to see that the money went to children’s homes and cancer charities instead… and the cost for sending out the thousands of greetings out – zilch. :) … oh yeah… less trees cut down too, so also protecting God’s creation.

 
————

I love your words “giving away”.  I often hear our child* say these words.  As a matter of fact, she wrote a paper about a famous person* and in her opening paragraph she wrote something like this “this person* loved peace and gave it away….”
 
In our home country*, we, as a family always tried to do some kind of little family fundraiser and pass the money onto the orphanages in Russia.  This always was a big deal for us, but last year here, I had a tough time trying to figure out what to do and let our little family tradition go past us.  The last year we were in our homeland*, we had an art show.  one of our children* is a very good artist, but other made a bunch of pictures, too.  I put borders on all of them and hung them in our dining room.  We invited lots of neighbors and friends and collected donations for each “piece” of art.  We donated all the money to an organization that builds playgrounds in orphanages in Russia.  Now, our second year, here, and I’m still thinking about this and maybe will try to do something in the New year. 

 
—————————– 
 
Cool message!   For several years in a row my siblings* and I were buying Christmas gifts for each other, and for each our spouses.  There are 6 of us in total.  We all attend the same church in our homeland*, and they often have various organizations in need around Christmas time.  About 5 years ago we decided we truly didn’t need anything material for Christmas, and that we would much prefer to take all of the money we would spend on each other (+ some extra), and we sponsor a family that is in need.  While I was there last we all* took a day and went and did all the shopping together.  We really enjoyed spending the time together, and we were so happy to do something that would make someone else’s Christmas morning special.  Obviously, I am now just a monetary contributor, but the “tradition” remains.  Our kids visibly see that we don’t have gifts from each other, and it a good opportunity to explain to them what we are doing and why.  We certainly aren’t “special” for doing this – as lots of people all over the world do it – but I have to say I don’t miss the gifts under the tree at all, and it is such a peaceful feeling to know someone else is having a special day.
 
That said we have struggled to find a way to really instill it in our kids – so I love the ideas you have!  Can’t wait to see the others.

 
———————— 
 
This year compassion international has a “what I want for christmas” program.  They send you a child that needs a sponser (at the end of NOv) for you to pray for during the holidays and try to find a sponser for.  We are doing that and the kids are really praying for (*our child we sponsor).  Also we do one of the toy programs for kids that wouldn’t get anything, each child fills a shoebox.  Also we have some Christmas books we read

 
———

Working with and helping the mentally and physically challenged is a real blessing because they really appreciate the love. I use to volunteer with the Special Olympics * and continue to help out a workshop/day center.

Another things is to give to the Messianic Congregations in Eretz Israel. They have Arab, Jewish and others that have paid dearly to become believers in the Messiah. As you know both the Arabs and Jews families write their family members off when they put their faith in Jesus.

Recently some congregations have been firebombed, vandalized and have had the anti-missionary groups riot in front of their places of worship. They really need our prayer and physical support (even visits). Consider standing with them as they need to know that other believers care about them in their time of need. Especially now..

Keeping the light(s) in this world,

———————————
 
A cool idea that we have used in the past is to give specific gifts from the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog, in someone else’s name, as an honorary gift to them (SP sends an honor or memory card explaining the gift). This works well for grandkids to give to their grandparents, for example. See https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
 
e.g. 
$4 for milk for a child for a week
$9 to feed a hungry baby for a week
$10 for a mosquito net to prevent malaria
$14 for a dozen baby chicks
 
It’s also available in British pounds here: http://www.giftcatalogue.org.uk

 
——————–
 
We’ve done Operation Christmas Child via ISZL for the past two years (isn’t that cool that the international schools sponsor such a Christian thing!? I wonder whether they realize!), and we also were able to do it through our homeland* as well. Have been blessed to sponsor Compassion children for 20 years this year. 
 
—————
 
Dad just came back from some ministry* outreaches where he was telling Hindu Indians about what Christmas is all about. Sharing our “Dad time” over the Christmas break is one way that we give Christmas away. Another way is that we’ve always had a stocking for Jesus. So there are 7 stockings at our fireplace: one for every family member, plus one for Jesus. We kids grew up putting poems for Jesus, letters for Jesus, and money for Jesus in the stocking. We then take the money to church as offering, or give the money to missions/the poor. We also bake traditional Swiss Christmas cookies for all of our neighbors. Some of them wait all year for our cookie bags! Most of these neighbors don’t yet know the Lord, but they all know that we are Christians, and they respect us for it… I think they’re glad we take Christmas so seriously because it means they get yummy cookies (hehe), but it’s also a nice way of reaching out to them and going to their homes to deliver the cookies… We have interesting conversations with them each time.
 
What amazing insight into “being CHRISTmas” and a blessing to others at CHRISTmas time! 
 
There are still a few days left, what might you do to still “Give Away CHRISTmas yourself this year? Taking gifts to others?  Serving at a food distribution place?  Adding “Jesus is the reason to the season” to your (work) e-mails instead of X-Mas?  Inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service (which LIFT is having one)?  Connecting with a long ago family member or friend that you need reconciliation with? Bringing a guest to your Christmas meal, even if they aren’t family?  (Contact the Eales if you want to join with the growing “Christmas Day meal with the Eales” for families/individuals around LIFT that don’t have extended family around!
 
In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
Corey

“Giving Away CHRISTmas!”

Hello All,

A few nights ago we had some friends over for dinner and they asked my son a question in which his answer made me smile.  The question was, “What is your family tradition? Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?”  His answer was a quiet, simple (but profound), “Actually, this year we are giving away Christmas.”  It was a memorable moment for me  because his answer gave evidence that he’s getting an important value in life at Christmas that Tanya and I are being very intentional to try and pass on to our children. 

As a family we’ve been having an internal discussion for weeks now (in continuation from last Christmas’ discussions) on how we should try to focus on others at Christmas, versus a “me attitude” of what presents under the tree have my name on it.  Clearly, we’re not the perfect family (even if our last name is Best) and we will have one family gift that’s not exactly inexpensive under our tree, but overall, we are trying to figure out real tangible ways to “give away Christmas” with focus on others. 

It’s not that it all started last year for our family with such a topic since we downplayed Santa Claus with our kids from birth and “up played” Jesus as the real gift at Christmas.  However,  last year we were challenged by another who went out of her way to do something for other families in our community who may not have a lot of means to really celebrate Christmas as a family, even in such a wealthy nation as Switzerland.  I hesitate to share details of some of the ways our family is “giving away Christmas” this year, but at the same time, I hope and pray you may be challenged as well to look outward away from the presents with your name on them under your tree and think of others during Christmas.

First, it’s simply been an open conversation with our kids and seeking their input in practical ways we can “give away Christmas”.   One way is that we will buy food baskets and take to our village’s social service office for them to give to families in need.  We found out last year that there are a few (very local) families that are in need and they can anonymously take these baskets too.   A catch in this is that we (each of us in the family) are finding ways together to set aside funds (giving up something) so we can purchase these gifts for others.  There are a lot of creative ways to do this and we’re putting the saved money  in a “Giving Away Christmas” box.  There are a few other things involved in this family savings box, but you get the idea. 

Another thing we did this year in particular was to sponsor a COMPASSION CHILD.  This first month’s sponsorship is again a family thing that our kids have been involved with in setting aside support for it.  Years ago we sponsored a child from Brazil while we still lived in the USA, and we are honored and excited to share in another’s life, this time in Togo.   By the way, Ken N at LIFT is a Compassion “Advocate” who can provide you with more information on how you too can “sponsor” a Compassion Child somewhere in the world.  Personally, I strongly endorse and have seen first hand the integrity of how Compassion International operates in a wonderful way of ensuring the sponsor’s finances truly makes it to those involved in a transparent and effective manner.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO SHARE ON WAY’S TO GIVE CHRISTMAS AWAY:
The world around us has made CHRISTmas into a spending frenzy and commercial business called X-Mas and I’m not one who desires for my kids to only know that kind of a world and the world of the fat guy in a red suit or only the Swiss version of Samichlaus and his cohorts “Schmutzli” from the “Waldhuus” (cabin in the woods).  Jesus IS the reason for the season and CHRISTmas is called CHRISTMAS for a reason.

Again, my family isn’t “the model” family and we’re imperfect in many ways but I hope to challenge others to also be intentional to “GIVE AWAY CHRISTMAS”, just as God gave His Son as the original CHRISTmas gift to the world…..knowing Jesus would live His life to die for us, and GIVE us life through His death and resurrection! 
I have a favor to ask of you and a challenge all at the same time.  Since our family is still trying to seek practical ways to “GIVE AWAY CHRISTMAS” (this year and future years).  If you, as a family, couple or single have found your own way of “giving away Christmas”, please click reply and share it with me?  Preferably by next Wednesday.  I intend to keep the names confidential, but would like to share various ideas that others out there may have found in giving away Christmas on next week’s LIFT update.

In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
Corey

PS- A great friend of ours sent this link about couple days ago about “Giving This Christmas Away”- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2ulYpoNXC0

Jesus IS the reason for the season! – Part II

‘Twas the night before Christmas……
Hello All,

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in a nearby Swiss house,
Not much food or toys were present, but perhaps a lil’ mouse.
When the day of Christ’s birthday came to celebrate, 
The family found a way, but compared to others, it wasn’t so great…..

Perhaps you were expecting me to again announce the Christmas Eve service on the 24th that is from 6 – 7 pm as “‘Twas the night before Christmas” but I would like to share something a friend did a couple of weeks ago which challenged my thinking of the meaning of Christmas, for those around us in our community of Zug and perhaps for those of you reading this, wherever you are.  

This friend, comfortably blessed with a nice house, enough food, Christmas gifts for family, etc., did a wonderful “random act of kindness” in thinking of others who may not have so much.  This friend took grocery items down to the local “Amt” (gov’t office building) of their “Dorf” (village), which means a very small town here in Switzerland.  Not even sure it was the right place, my friend asked if there might be others in the “Dorf” who are in need.  As most “Amts” in the local towns of Switzerland have many functions under one roof, down at that town hall was a person who accepted the grocery items and said thank you for such a thoughtful act of thinking of others.  Furthermore, the office worker said, there were two families in particular that were having a very tough time right now that the town was aware of.  Tanya and I, who live near this same area, were touched by this act of kindness for others, and also were awakened to the fact that there are others who are in need, RIGHT WHERE WE ARE!

On one hand, I am so excited how part of LIFT’s core DNA is that of missions, especially 3rd world, in serving and ministering to others.   Each year LIFT’s missions giving has grown and recently we gave approx. 13,500 Swiss Francs to our ministry partners in India, South Africa, Belize and even helped support a local Swiss teacher serving in Sudan.  This IS a wonderful gift of love and our giving to others as a mission minded church will continue into the future. But on the other hand, I too often forget about the obvious that is right in front of my eyes, those others right near by.  Too often, I see Switzerland, and especially our Canton of Zug as an affluent place, even calling Switzerland a “rich country”.  As half the world’s 6 billion inhabitant live on less than 3 Swiss Francs a day, it’s actually true, but still, there are folks around me in need, very much in need of basic daily food and life supplies. 

I’m not trying to communicate that LIFT should change our focus. We are doing a wonderful job in being a light for Christ in our community and clearly our essence of LIFT is a church body that does take the Gospel message to those around us where we live, work and play and not just try to invite someone to church so the pastor can share the message. We’re an active body that is quite bold actually!  I guess what I’m writing is that for me personally, this random act of kindness really opened up my eyes to a need to look a little closer to those around me in my community, .  Those others that live nearby, those that have kids in the same schools or sports or club teams as my kids, those others that I recognize at the shopping market or town gatherings. Yes those others need the Gospel, in words from my mouth, in actions from my lifestyle and even for some in need, in anonymous random acts of kindness that only the Lord knows about and will bless as only He blesses!  

There’s still a couple of days left before Christmas and perhaps the Lord is about to bless a family or someone in need through a random act of kindness near you too? 

Thank You, God, for blessing us all on Christmas with your love, grace and the ultimate Christmas gift ever…..JESUS! 
Jesus IS the reason for the season!

In His grip and grace,

Corey

Jesus IS the reason for the season!

Hello All,

I know it’s a cliché, especially in the USA, but it’s true: Jesus IS the reason for the season!  It’s so true that I didn’t hesitate to have it printed on our Christmas cards this year.

For a guy who worked in management for the world’s largest retailer for 4 years after college, I recall being frustrated at the secularizing and “retailizing” of the season and gifts and money to be made.  One Christmas Eve after only having about 3 or 4 days off since Thanksgiving a month earlier, I was even challenged by a customer on my closing the store two minutes early at 5:58 and not at exactly 6:00 pm.  Perhaps he was Swiss (at the time I didn’t have my Swiss passport yet), but my watch showed the time clearly stating 5:58 and actually he was right, it was two minutes early.  I smiled back (although frustrated inside that this guy waited until the last moments to care enough to give such thoughtful and loving gifts) and stated, “Sir, perhaps you’re right, but I got 140 people in here working Christmas Eve that would love to get home to their families as soon as possible- so it’s close enough for me!”,  I then picked up the phone and again announced over the loudspeaker that it was time for all those still shopping to bring their final items to the front where our friendly cashiers were there to serve them!  And this is just a story about retail shopping and not about how the world and public places and schools are only saying “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” in fear of offending someone by saying “Merry CHRISTmas”! By the way, since I seem to be the grinch against anti Christmas-er’s my biggest pet peeve this time of the year is the term “X-Mas” that is often used in deleting the main word that counts, “C-H-R-I-S-T”!

But then it happened………..one Christmas Eve in 1997, the same year after leaving retail, I found myself in our church’s Christmas Cantata singing tenor alongside about 40 other singers in the choir.  Each following year more folks sang in the choir and even a full blown drama cast was added (including the star donkey named Flapjack) to present to our community that Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas!  It was a wonderful highlight for our church to reach into our community to those that wouldn’t normally step foot in a church. I got to admit that this past Sunday at LIFT I was close to having a tear (just one!) form in my eyes watching those 6 or 7 lil’ LIFT’er’s dressed up as angels, shepherds and of course the baby Jesus singing Away in a Manger, knowing that in a few hours they would be singing it again but not within the walls of LIFT, but at a local international gathering that for years has had Christmas parties while intentionally leaving Jesus out.  What a blessing for those kids and their families to boldly go and share Jesus via song and drama into our community!  What a blessing for those who were reminded that Jesus is the reason for the season. 

One other thing going back to 1997 that happened and I didn’t realize it at the time.  Although out of retail, but still quite busy working hard during the Christmas season like everyone else, I realized that Tanya and I were creating our own family traditions of Christmas and passing it on to our kids and clearly including Jesus as the central role of celebrating His birth and gift from God to creation!  From the cantata at church (in which one year Tanya was the angel) followed by our family fondue, to special ornaments, to usually inviting others that didn’t have family around, to getting permits to cutting our trees (that truly looked like poor Charlie Brown trees) in the nearby forest, each and every year we somehow added a new memory, created something special for our family Christmas, just as I had as a kid myself with my mom and dad and two older brothers alongside extended family.

I realize that for many, it is such a difficult time of year as current family circumstances (or past family experiences) may not be such warm and positive memories.  But this is also the point of all of us being reminded that Jesus is the reason for the season, and for all, He is our gift of love and grace from God, who pursues us in relationship to Him……and others!  It’s never to late to make your 2008 kinda like my 1997, a fresh start to renew your love of CHRISTmas and begin new traditions for you and your family, even if they are far away (physically or relationally).  

After the first Christmas season of LIFT in 2004, when the Eales were away in South Africa and the Best’s didn’t attempt to go solo for a Christmas service, LIFT had it’s first Christmas Eve service in 2005 with mainly Christmas carols and a brief Christmas message.  It’s now our “family” tradition of LIFT and each year it’s grown.  Again this year, in our new church home at Ibelweg 18 we will have our Christmas Eve Service from 6 – 7 pm. We’re even thinking about singing the last song by candlelight (anyone know how to find 150 candles with those little white paper rings around them?).  Although many are traveling abroad, many others are coming from abroad as well to visit family here.  It’s also a great way to reach into our German speaking community around us and invite someone to come hear and sing those English Christmas carols!  

Cliché or not, I don’t mind putting “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season” on our family Christmas card. I pray that we as LIFT can also share this truth, not only on our Christmas cards, but also by our lifestyles this CHRISTmas season and give away the real gift of Christmas…..Jesus!    
His grip and grace,

Corey