As a fundraising consultant, a lot of my work involves advising churches on raising money for major building projects, often costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds. Part of the process includes a challenge to church leadership teams and congregations to ‘step up’ to this particular plate, and to consider personal gifts far in excess of what they are used to.
We all like shiny new starts, like a new school book, a new computer, a new outfit, a new job. And a New Year promises the same: a fresh start, a chance to be someone better. Not a great start then for the Wright household who were dosed up to the nines shivering in front of the fire on New Year’s Eve, with a ‘survivors’ photo for those that made it to the end of the fireworks!
My wife Alison and I look at our giving at the turn of every year. But it’s not about a New Year resolution, it’s about a New Year review.
My nine-year-old daughter is doing a maths problem for school: “If the average person in the UK lives to be 81 years old, how many hours will they live? In your calculations, don’t forget that some years are leap years.”
Since you ask: 710,040. “I wonder how I will spend them all,” she mused, as though somebody had given her a huge windfall and now she got to choose what she would like to buy.
Some years, the kingdom of God feels far off.
For many of us, 2016 has been a discouraging takedown of the idea that we live in a generous society—one that looks out for the needy, one that prefers the 'least of these'.
I stagger away from the shopping frenzy that is Leeds city centre in the run-up to Christmas. I’m burdened with own-label shopping bags indiscreetly disclosing my buying habits. I stumble awkwardly over the outstretched hand of a beggar and realise that I have been sidestepping other anonymous outstretched hands at intervals all along the precinct.
Think of Advent and what springs to mind? Angels and shepherds? The journey of the magi? Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem? But what about the prophets?
When Queen Victoria was staying at Balmoral the story goes that she was caught in the rain when walking and called at a cottage to borrow an umbrella. An irritated cottager, not recognising her caller offered a tatty umbrella. The next day a coachman returned the umbrella with her Majesty’s thanks. As he left he heard the cottager say, “If I had known who she was she could have had my best umbrella!”
Throughout Christian history many people have given up stable sources of income to go headlong into a new adventure with God, just because they believed that He asked them to.
Christmas is coming, and whether or not you’re the sort of person who has everything organised and check-listed to within an inch of its life, Christmas is a God-given opportunity in countless ways.
blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.