When choosing gifts, think sustainability for the sake of our children and the generations to come. CNS file photo

ADVENT reminds us to prepare spiritually for Christmas. In St Mark’s Gospel, Jesus taught the importance of staying awake (Mk 13:34).

To stay awake, we have to be “clear-minded about the illusions that lure us and the fears that control us”, says Fr Laurence Freeman, OSB, in his Advent Week 1 reflections (shared with the World Community for Christian Meditation).

As we approach the Christmas season, we may find ourselves sleepwalking through tinsel town, lured by the glitz of neon light-ups and all manner of “mall-illusions”.

Like the comic-strip cat Garfield, we are tempted to hold out an open giftbox and say, “Here is an empty box. Put something in it and give it to me.” The response from the cat’s owner is telling. “Ah, the spirit of Christmas,” he says.

Despite the cynicism, the cartoonist is actually giving us a wake-up call, so to speak. Perhaps, we need first of all to be aware of “the fears that control us”. There is the fear of not measuring up to expectations and the stress of preparing for Christmas feasting and merry giving.

To be awake to the true spirit of Christmas, however, is to choose meaning over materialism. And then there is the other thing about the innkeeper who turned away Joseph and the expectant Mary.

In what ways are we like that unaccommodating innkeeper? In not giving the space and the time, not wanting to respond to the real, urgent need that is right there, in our face? That is also another type of turning away from God’s grace.

Still, we know, from being given the greatest sign of hope in the coming of Jesus incarnate, that this beautiful Earth is indeed God’s gift to us, for us to take care of. “If not now, then when?” as the old saying goes.

Yes, with some inspiration and creativity, we can make healthier, more meaningful and planet-friendly choices in our preparations for Christmas.

The poor, who have less to spend, cannot afford to buy expensive presents or go on exotic holidays. We can take a leaf from their naturally green practices by cutting down on extravagances and limiting our spending.

We can donate, on our family’s behalf, to a worthy cause such as the Jesuit Refugee Service’s project, Hope for the Horn of Africa (www.jrssingapore.org) Then spend less on gifts but give more of our time and attention to being joyfully present to our families and friends.

When choosing gifts, think Sustainability for the sake of our children and the generations to come. And, in the weeks to come, why not take care of your health by consuming less meat but more veggies? Better still, choose organic and support our few local organic farmers.

Some “Green Gifting” Ideas. Pick gifts that suit the recipient and have more lasting value (not necessarily more expensive):

n A lovely photo of your children in a nice picture frame; a potted plant of herbs such as basil, mint or rosemary; an inspirational calendar or diary with uplifting quotes and Nature pictures; a liturgical biblical diary; a de-stressing massage or foot reflexology session.

n Give a WiGE (Wild Green Experience) present! Create a “wild” e-card or homemade one to invite the recipient on a hike in the forest, such as the Treetops Walk, a free concert cum picnic at the Botanics, or a bumboat trip to Pulau Ubin. Check out the Nparks website (www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/) for DIY walking or cycling trail guides.

By Anne Lim
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in Creation Spirituality.

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