As I prepare for Christmas this year, I am thinking back to the magical Christmases of my childhood — special times that were bursting with expectation, and filled with affection, generosity and home-coming. Music always played a part in our family celebrations, and this year I am reminded of a song that often rang throughout our house at Christmas: Elvis Presley’s “If Every Day Was Like Christmas.” The lyrics remind me that Christmas has the ability to bring out the best in people, a quality many refer to as Christmas spirit! The question raised is why can’t that “feeling go on endlessly?” Great question. I think it can.
In a fascinating landmark study at Emory University, researchers discovered that when you offer an act of kindness, it ignites wonderful chemical reactions in your body that produce pleasure, reduce stress, increase health and bond you to other people. In other words, both the giver and the receiver are blessed by the exchange!
And the incredible news doesn’t end even there. It turns out that witnessing an act of generosity also has the very same impact, and initiates the exact chemical reactions in the observer! Witnessing an act of generosity also makes you much more likely to offer kindness to someone else. So, every single act of generosity has the power to touch many lives!
For me, Christmas is all about generosity. In response to God’s ultimate gift, Jesus, we are invited to respond in gratitude by offering gifts to one another. When we are generous, we have the power to change lives, alleviate suffering, and build resilience and self-sufficiency in others. This is the secret to having Christmas spirit year-round: every time we give, from our time, our talents, our finances, and our faith, we help build the world we are all longing to live in.
This Christmas, I’ll embrace the spirit of the season and spread it through the coming year by increasing my giving over the next twelve months. I’ll also share those acts of generosity with my family and close friends, so it’s not just me who feels good, but they also benefit, just like the study says.
You too can make every day more like Christmas when you give a gift through Gifts with Vision. A Gift with Vision changes lives: you, the giver, benefit from the joy of generosity, the people who receive the gift benefit from your sharing of God’s abundance and those who witness your generosity are also more likely to be generous themselves.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Rev. Roger Janes, Community of Faith Stewardship Support for First Dawn Eastern Edge, Region 15, Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters, Nakonha:ka, Eastern Ontario Outaouais, and East Central Ontario Regions of the United Church of Canada.