“It’s better to give than to receive.”

The saying rings true for many of us as we begin Christmas gift shopping, especially when we consider that it comes from Jesus himself. In Acts 20:35, Paul said: “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

When considering gifts this Christmas season, Kevin L. Strickland, ELCA assistant to the presiding bishop and executive for worship, suggests, “In this strange new-old time, we can ‘make it simple’ by paying attention to God’s abundance, and proclaiming it by our own abundant giving.”

What better way to proclaim God’s abundance than by choosing to give gifts that continue giving after Christmas? To inspire you, Living Lutheran rounded up gift ideas that give back to people in need and care for God’s creation.

Adopt a star
Budding astrologers on your gift list will delight in having a star to call their own. Adopt a star, double star, a suspected planet host or a confirmed planetary system and give a gift that’s out of this world. Not only that, but you’ll support a nonprofit that helps raise research funds for the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium, a large team of international scientists.

America the Beautiful pass
The National Park Service’s America the Beautiful pass is a gift that will continue giving to your outdoors-loving family all year long. The pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges, as well as day use fees at national forests and grasslands—more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

Earthwatch Institute
 A membership to the institute helps with research costs that aren’t covered by its expansive and immersive volunteer expeditions. Or give the gift of an entire expedition for your loved one to work alongside scientists and researchers in the field that interests them most: wildlife and ecosystems, climate change, archaeology or ocean health.

ELCA Good Gifts
With more than 50 options, from honeybees to goats to school supplies to medical checkups, ELCA Good Gifts makes it easy to honor your gift recipients in meaningful ways that help people in need in more than 80 countries in which the ELCA has a presence.

Sending a “good gift” is easy. First, choose your gift from the catalog. Second, announce your gift by printing off one of the online printable cards, or request cards to be mailed directly to you for giving. (When you make a gift online, you also have an option to personalize free, printed cards that will be sent directly to your loved ones.) Third, know that more than 90 percent of your gifts directly support Lutheran ministries near and far. To make the gifts more personal, you can choose the causes that are closest to your recipients’ hearts.

Make it fair trade
 There’s a lot of talk about fair trade, but just what does it mean? According to Fair Trade USA, “Fair-Trade Certified” products are made with respect to people and planet, with products ranging from coffee and chocolate to body care and clothes. To be sure you’re buying certified products, look for the label. Equal Exchange is one worker-owned cooperative that offers fair-trade goods.

Lutheran World Relief (LWR)
Farmers Market Coffee partners with farmers to help transform communities that depend on coffee crops to support their families. Not only can you give the gift of a delicious cup of hot coffee, but you’ll know that your gift funds LWR projects worldwide.

For more fair-trade gift ideas, take a look at Ten Thousand Villages, with an online shop and brick-and-mortar stores, that works with 20,000 makers in 30 developing countries; and Servv, which connects shoppers with artisans and farmers in 25 countries to lift them and their families out of poverty.


Adopt an animal
 You can’t take the animal(s) you adopt home (can you imagine keeping a manatee in the bathtub?), but you can virtually adopt wild animals as gifts while supporting international, national or local animal groups.
gifts.worldwildlife.org (click on “special adoptions”)

Another thought to consider when giving this Christmas season: it’s not how much you spend or how big the gift, but how it will continue giving long past Dec. 25.

“There was no room for Mary and Joseph and the Christ child in the inn, but room was made for them,” Strickland said, reflecting on the Christmas story. “Even when we might feel that there’s not enough, God’s abundance is present, and in the Christmas season, we’re reminded how abundance may look small—like a baby being born in a Bethlehem manger scene.”

Susan B. Barnes
Barnes is a Tampa, Fla.-based freelance writer.

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