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Wednesday, December 19 2001

Christmas reflections - picking names

Do any banks still have Christmas clubs? The question occurred to me while I was reflecting on whether the younger generation really appreciates the principle, "it's more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). When I think back on all my Christmases (most of which, of course, are mostly a blur), the ones that meant the most and seemed most nearly perfect were the ones where special effort was expended toward making someone else's Christmas exceptional. The bank Christmas Clubs had the advertised goal of promoting giving more than receiving at Christmas. If you wanted to make gifts to people on the special day, you might need to save for the whole year. A dollar a week, I remember, was the recommended club minimum back in the halcyon days.

Another similar seasonal activity that was done widely was name picking. At the 4H Club, the church youth group (or for Mom's generation, the ladies aid), the school class, and the twice-a-month visits to aunt's and uncle's and cousins' home, we did this to put extra fun and meaning in Christmas giving. Everyone at the gathering signed a slip of paper with his or her name, put it into a hat or box, which was then shaken and stirred to mix them up and passed around. This time, everyone took one of the names and, in the event one got her/his own, it was put back in and shaken again until everyone had someone else's name. Everyone bought a present for the one whose name was pulled. Most of the years when I participated in this activity, the price limit on the gifts was a dollar. It made every organizational or even extended family meeting at or near Christmas special, turning it into at least a mini-party.

And the real giving when the spending ceiling was a dollar, of course, was in the shopping. Finding for a dollar an item that someone might appreciate, even then, when Hershey bars were six for a quarter and 16-oz Pepsis a dime, was the trick. Yet usually it was possible. (And I'm guessing that Duncansville's Slinky company may owe its success to this practice, and am sure Lifesavers profited greatly from it [remember "books" of rolls of Lifesavers, enough the next year?].) Now, on the other hand, with the profusion of 99-cent stores where you can get a whole set of tools for under a dollar, finding the right gift is hardly a challenge.

Check out the first two contributions to this year's Christmas page. And my apologize for the bad link on yesterday's entry. I urged trying the Christmas Index, above, but the link took those who did to a totally unrelated letter in the archive. It's fixed now, unless Santa's helpers have interfered between this writing and your reading.

Join the Forum! Please share your reflections, too! They might be random short thoughts or recounting more complete memories. What did you wish for? What did you get? Materially? Spiritually?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Good news/bad news

There is the story of a minister who got up one Sunday and announced to his congregation: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building program. The bad news is, it's still out there in your pockets."

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Advent thought for the day

Christians claim Christ to be the only solution against "insanity," for in Him alone do all things hold together, and in Him alone does every aspect and element of man's being and life find its meaning and purpose. In a word, in Him along does man become and remain whole.

—Thomas Hopko
All the Fullness of God

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