Rev. Melissa Cooper

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Redeeming Culture: Intergenerational Gift-giving

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 The Advent season is upon us, and while liturgically we focus on anticipation in Christ, in our daily lives, many of us are focusing on a different kind of anticipation.

For better or worse, this is the time of year where gift-giving and gift-receiving are a significant part of our culture. For some of us, it brings joy; for others, guilt and obligation. It's easy to rant about consumerism, but while often accurate, it is seldom productive. 

So what if instead of condemning culture, we redeemed it?

I came across this article from Penn State, which appears to have a well-developed intergenerational extension program (more on that to come - I'm doing some research now!). While their program does not seem to have any kind of religious focus, I couldn't help but connect it to our faith communities.

Often when we think about those who are disenfranchised or forgotten generationally, we only think of the young, and while that is true, there's another group that is alongside them, highlighted in the article: "At highest risk are young people in dire need of guidance and nurturing. The prospect of 'going it alone' is difficult for many elders as well; undesired social isolation is often associated with physical and psychological stress and decline."

While young people are in desperate need of life companionship, so are elders. We often make the assumption that adults have it all figured out, and those who have survived to be octogenarians surely are stable and capable of meeting their own needs, or asking for what they need. However, that's often not the case. The communities that supported them in their younger years may have forgotten them, or may not exist anymore. We must be as intentional about inclusion of the older end of the spectrum as we are the younger.

Advent is an ideal time to consider ways to connect these two groups, and why not connect also with something so embedded in our culture? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Set up a "Secret Santa" program between adult Sunday School classes and children's classes or small groups. Have each group create something homemade (for the adults, it may be a baked good; for the children, a coloring page) and offer to one another during a combined Sunday School hour the third or fourth week in Advent. 
  2. Partner with a local assisted living facility or nursing home to have a day of creativity! Bring children to the facility to create crafts and art alongside the residents, and then offer that art as gifts to parents and grandchildren back home. Or, have the group create art for your Advent and Christmas worship space! (If you have a Chrismon tree, this is a great way to create ornaments for it!)
  3. Share favorite Christmas recipes! Have the elders in the congregation partner up with a teenager and teach them to make a favorite family Christmas recipe. If your church has space and a big enough kitchen, this is a great way to also offer a community meal prepared by youth and elders of the congregation!

What are your ideas? How have you used Advent as a chance to connect generations, or to redeem the tradition of gift-giving?

Melissa CooperComment