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Advent: a Time to Think about Giving

Uses Advent to consider the commercial pressures of Christmas

by Rebecca Parkinson

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To use the season of Advent to consider the statement that it is better to give than to receive.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available a selection of Advent calendars.

  • You will also need a reader for the Bible passage, Luke 21.1–4.


  1. What do you like best about Christmas? For some people, it may be decorations, family get-togethers, food or snow, but for many people, it is the presents!

  2. As we move towards Christmas, there are huge advertising campaigns all trying their best to entice us into buying particular gifts. We all like to get presents, but in this consumerist society, people often spend more than they can really afford and, when January comes, they realize that they are in debt. With presents to buy, parties to go to and trees and decorations to purchase, it is so easy not to think about money. However, when the festivities are over, many people find that their money has disappeared.

  3. Research by GoCompare Money in 2017 found that approximately 14 per cent of people in the UK worried about money every day in the run-up to Christmas and that 37 per cent of people used credit to buy their presents. The research showed that millions of people were still repaying debts from Christmas 2016.

  4. So, why is it that so many people feel that they have to spend so much money at Christmas? A recent survey put forward these reasons for parents spending large amounts on their children:

    - they want their children to be happy
    - they simply give in to pressure from advertisements
    - they don’t want their children to have less than their peers
    - they feel guilty and buy large presents to try to quash their guilt
    - their children nag and nag until their parents eventually give in

  5. Show the selection of Advent calendars.

    Advent calendars have their origins in Germany where, starting on 1 December, Christians used to put chalk marks on their front door every day until Christmas Day. The idea of the chalk marks was to remind people each time they walked through the door that God sent Jesus into the world. In many ways, it seems that the priorities of Christmas and its meaning have changed. The commercial side of Christmas seems to have grown, causing people to worry about money and to place themselves in debt.

  6. It is interesting to consider what a difference it would make if we could change our attitudes and values at Christmas. What if everyone spent less and instead set a much smaller budget for Christmas presents? How would we feel if that happened in our house?

  7. Ask the following questions.

    - What do we value most at Christmas?
    - Is our biggest priority the presents?

  8. In the Bible, there is a story about a person who gave a gift.

    Ask the reader to come forward and read the Bible passage, Luke 21.1–4:

    Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

  9. In reality, the widow in this story did not give more than all the other people; she actually gave far less. However, this story reminds us that it is not the amount that we give to someone that matters, but the love that lies behind it that really counts. This widow showed a great love for God by giving all that she had.

Time for reflection

In the Bible (Acts 20.35), it says, ‘It is better to give than to receive.’ At Christmas, it is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of what we want, when actually we can get so much enjoyment out of giving to others.

As we enter the season of Advent, let’s take time this year to think about the true value and meaning of Christmas. Maybe we could spend less or make arrangements with our friends to set a budget for gifts. Maybe we could spend more time with people rather than spending more money.

This Christmas, let’s remember that it isn’t how much something costs that matters, but the love that is behind the gift. Let’s also remember that love, care, thoughtfulness and kindness are all great gifts to share with our families and friends . . . and they are free!

As we approach Christmas, let’s pause and think about those who are close to us: our families and our friends. Let’s decide to aim to make Christmas a happy time for all of them. Let’s remember that our attitudes to giving and receiving can affect those around us. Let’s aim to be joyful givers and thankful receivers.

Dear God,
Help us to be grateful for everything that we receive this Christmas, regardless of the cost.
Please let the presents that we give bring joy to others.
At this time of Advent, please help us to take time to consider the true values and meaning of Christmas.
Help us to bring happiness, joy and peace to other people.
May we remember your gift to the world this Christmas.


Any suitable Christmas song.

Publication date: November 2018   (Vol.20 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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