Christmas is the season to be jolly- and to be generous.
The Salvation Army red kettles and the many appeals for donations that come in the mail and through the media remind us that there are many human needs that can be met if we give.
Early in the 20th century Andrew Carnegie gave $350 million ($7 billion in modern terms) that, among other things, included the construction of Carnegie Hall in New York City. On November 7, 2003 National Public Radio announced that it had received a bequest worth at least $200 million from, Joan B. Kroc, the widow of the longtime chairman of the McDonald's restaurant chain.
Five years ago, two of the world's richest men, the computer magnate Bill Gates and the financier Warren Buffet announced a $60 billion alliance to attack global poverty and disease.
Generally speaking we consider a person to be a philanthropist if they are very wealthy AND very generous. "Doing good" on a grand scale is what distinguishes one in such a manner. But we cannot depend on large gifts from persons of extreme wealth to do it all. Ordinary people with modest means can accomplish great things when they give according to their resources.
As we approach Christmas the spirit of giving is at its peak in our culture. Charitable organizations, local churches, and community ministries depend on the generosity of people to enable them to serve folks with more limited financial resources. They do not count on someone with great wealth to step up with all the funds to meet the needs. Rather it is the combined smaller contributions of many ordinary people that make a big difference.
As I walked down the hall of my home church last Sunday morning I was overwhelmed to see the rooms full of new toys, clothes, small appliances, and other items that would be distributed to hundreds of families this Christmas. In the next couple of weeks many thousands of similar expressions of generosity will be shared in cities and towns all across the land. People like you and me pitch in together and make this possible.
In our community and around the world people are housed and healed, educated and encouraged, clothed and comforted because of the generosity of others. This is true year round but it is emphasized at Christmas time.
During this Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate the Greatest Gift, the Christ Child born in a manger, let us be generous. Remember that Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," Dec. 12, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]