It's a day for giving back, and United Methodist-related Imagine No Malaria is a good place to start. For Giving Tuesday, people can save lives of those affected by malaria by texting MALARIA to 27722, which allows the giver to make a $10 donation.
"The only way to keep Christ in Christmas is to be Christ in Christmas," said the Rev. Robb McCoy, associate pastor of Riverside United Methodist Church, Moline, Ill.
Writing in his blog, The Fat Pastor, he added, "If you want to find Christ this Christmas, you can still find him. &ellipsis; No one can take Christ out of Christmas where the people of God are being the body of Christ.
"If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, then spend as much money on others in need as you do on your family for gifts. Work for justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God. Love your neighbors. Love your enemies. Forgive."
But reclaiming Christmas doesn't end at midnight Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Some CyberMonday bargains
Bread for the World, the interfaith ministry that fights hunger and poverty worldwide, has online specials for Cyber Monday. Shoppers can buy T-shirts, books, stocking stuffers and more and receive 20 percent off their purchases on Nov. 26 only.
Heifer International website grabs attention with this message: "Surfing the web, looking for Cyber Monday deals? Shop Heifer International's Gift Catalog instead, and let your boss catch you browsing for a gift that gives back!"
Simplify, volunteer and support
Collaborating with the Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg Church, a United Methodist congregation in Tipp City, Ohio, Rethink Church is providing sermon resources and launching a national media campaign to help promote the movement to simplify, volunteer and support this Christmas season. Those on social media may add a twibbon to their Facebook and Twitter profiles to show support that they've taken the pledge to reclaim Christmas as well as download images for their Facebook covers.
Offer relief and hope
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is hard at work responding to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. But its span extends far beyond the United States, and generous givers will find many ideas for alternative gifts in the UMCOR Alternative Gift Catalog. Possibilities range from purchasing a cleaning bucket, providing a meal for a child and buying a bed net to prevent malaria to training a community health worker, renovating a clinic in Africa and buying fair-trade coffee. One hundred percent of every gift to UMCOR through The Advance goes to the project of the giver's choice.
Another giving opportunity is the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at United Methodist-related Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. The center has an arrangement with Cokesbury and Amazon so that shoppers at both online sites can support the center with their purchases. By entering the sites through the center's homepage, shoppers can be assured a portion of the proceeds will go to the center.
Always remember others
Store-bought presents have a way of fading from memory. Gifts from the heart stay there.
A member of First United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tenn., shares her story.
"On Thanksgiving, I purchased via Internet and a toll-free phone call, eight bikes and eight helmets for the 61st Avenue United Methodist Church Last-Minute Toy Store in Nashville, Tenn. This ministry has been a passion of mine for many years. A few years ago, while I was helping a woman shop for her small child, a toddler's bike was rolled into the gift area. She looked at me and asked if she could get the bike. I said 'yes' and grabbed it. The look of joy in her eyes was something I will never forget."
And she didn't. Thanks to 50th-birthday gifts of money from this woman's friends, eight children will receive shiny, new bikes.
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.