World hunger rising for three years in a row. $16 billion spent on unwanted Christmas gifts that often end up in landfill. Global climate crisis.

In light of marketing that prompts us to find the perfect present in the form of vegan-certified therapy beds for our cats, is it possible that we’ve hit #peakChristmas and we should all just call it quits?

Probably not. What it takes, of course, is a refocus on the original gift of Christ among humanity – raw, close and transforming. Perhaps it’s no surprise we see those changes most readily in places where vegan-certified cat therapy beds are in shortest supply (as are most other items). These are the places where suffering is real yet faith is strong – where children die from preventable disease and women are silenced by violence and hunger stalks families day after day. And yet as Leonard Cohen would have it, it’s where things are most cracked that the light gets in.

This Christmas, UnitingWorld invites you to respond both to the pain of the world and the birth of Christ by giving gifts that matter. Things like education and pigs and training for women in places where people are eager to take in their own, creative hands the tools that build hope.

How do we know how much they matter? We’ve seen it. Among 202,305 people (yes, we had our UnitingWorld partners count them), we’ve seen the dirt-grimed palms and hydroponic crops; the newly stocked market stalls and the eager attendance at handwashing demonstrations; skilful fingers feeding cloth into sewing machines and eyes lighting up as the Scriptures are opened to Jesus’ treatment of women and girls; pigs and goats tended with care.

These gifts are evidence of Christ’s kingdom coming in and through God’s people. These gifts prevent diseases that kill. They send girls to school who might otherwise be married at fifteen, and they change the attitudes that lead to family violence. They stop hunger.

Rev Lima Tura (centre) with Pastor Dorothy from the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu (left) and Malisi Honolulu, Secretary for the Women’s Fellowship of the Tuvalu Congregational Church. Photo by Natasha Holland.

And we know these gifts matter to you too. We’ve seen your passion for a world where people live with dignity and hope. During the year our team visited you in your congregations from the north coast to the mountains, in inner-city Sydney suburbs and out on the plains. You told us that even as you sometimes struggle to meet your own needs, you still believe you have enough to share – at home and abroad. You told us that your love for our farmers in the outback makes you even more aware of life for farmers in Zimbabwe, tackling disease and corruption on top of drought. Connecting with God’s people and God’s work around the world brings you life, here and now. It always has, and it always will.

On the coast at Corrimal we watched certificates handed out to members of Adult Fellowships who’ve hit milestones of 80 and 90 years of age – lifelong supporters who’ve prayed, cooked, gardened, knitted, stood for countless hours in the sun at BBQs, read and listened – joining their lives with people they’ve never met who are also working hard for a better life. In particular, they’ve raised thousands of dollars so that people like Lima, the first female theological lecturer in the Solomon Islands, can prepare the way for others.

In Bowral, where this year’s Everything in Common Gift Catalogue video was made, we’re seeing families start conversations with their children about why the birth of Jesus connects us to children in Vanuatu, South Sudan and Sri Lanka. We’re seeing what happens when people decide to live out the call to God’s world made new – across borders, among neighbours near and far.

Thank you for another year beside us sharing what we have with God’s people.
We invite you to reclaim Christmas for good and keep giving through UnitingWorld’s Everything in Common gift catalogue – gifts that fight poverty and build hope as they honour the people you love.
everythingincommon.com.au

Cath Taylor

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