I know today is Cyber Monday, and believe me, I’ve done half my Christmas shopping online, and will get a few more items online today. But I just found out that yesterday was Charity Sunday.
Don’t worry if you didn’t know this, either. Our almsgiving during the holidays shouldn’t be limited to one day, but it’s great to have a day to remind us that giving to those in need is more important than how perfectly we decorate our homes, get our custom-made Christmas cards out on time, host the perfect holiday party, and give the most creative gifts to friends and family. All of those things are wonderful, but only if we can do them without neglecting (1) those in need, (2) our families, and (3) our physical and mental health.
On Small Business Saturday, my friend Teresa Waters, delivered the 15 bags of praline pecans I ordered from her this year, which benefit the Memphis Interfaith Hospitality Network, an emergency shelter serving homeless shelters in the Memphis/Shelby County area. It’s nice when almsgiving can “double” as gift-giving, since I now have 15 gifts to give to others on my list.
But most of the time, charity doesn’t have a kickback. ““Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27) I think that can also include the homeless, the sick and suffering, the hungry, those in nursing homes.
Our church, St. John Orthodox, offers many opportunities for our parishioners to participate in almsgiving (year-round) including Thanksgiving baskets, for which we donated the food, assembled and delivered to needy recipients. We also collect new toys for the MIFA (Memphis Inter Faith Association) Christmas store. And blankets and other items for the homeless, which again, we assemble and deliver. One night during the holidays we will sing Christmas carols at a local nursing home. This is one of my favorite events. Although my mother is in a nursing home in a different state, somehow I feel like I’m singing to her when we do this. (I hope to be at the Christmas party at her nursing home in a couple of weeks.) I’m sure there are endless other opportunities (not just during the Christmas season) and I hope we will all keep our eyes open and make these a priority.