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Last December I invited Banner readers to join me in placing just a single item on our Christmas wish list: a goat. I figure many of us are sufficiently blessed not to need more stuff. Besides, I’d rather buy my own junk because then I get what I want. And my belt constantly impresses in me that I don’t need more chocolate.

I mentioned that I sincerely want people in need to benefit from the generosity of my loved ones. A goat supplied by an agency such as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee will provide a livelihood for, say, a family orphaned by AIDS. I’d welcome that a lot more than another camp stove.

Your response was amazing. Here’s what “Santa” brought:

•More than 1,500 goats through CRWRC

•Scads of letters from readers who said they were on board through any of a dozen other agencies

•A pig from my kids, who wanted to donate a gift more consistent with my personality

•Lots of questions about what’s on my wish list for 2005.

An Encouraging Word

Well, I’ll tell you. I have two items on my list this year:

1. More goats.

2. Letters.

I appreciate the thought behind Christmas cards. I really do. But the cards themselves? What good are they? I take 10 seconds to scan them, then what? I can’t eat them. I suppose I can set them on my mantel or hang them on a string. Fine. But I could just as well use last year’s. Who’d know?

This year I wish my dear ones would divert their efforts to writing a letter to or on behalf of those in the world who are imprisoned because of their faith or their conscience. Such letters take more effort to write, but they’re effective in giving encouragement, easing the treatment Christ’s imprisoned sisters and brothers receive, and speeding their release.

It’s not hard. Check the box below for details. A single-page letter (most effective) sent to a prisoner of conscience or to a government official on a prisoner’s behalf costs less than a Christmas card. You can buy chocolate with what’s left over or blow it on postage for another letter next month.

How will your loved ones know you did this? Call them. Hearing your voice will warm their hearts more than the same old same old on that card.

All right, so maybe you happen to like sending cards. Fine. No problem. Just be sure to add to your list someone who really needs a letter.

Jesus came to “preach good news to the poor [and] to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18). To our sisters and brothers suffering persecution: Christ has not forgotten you. We haven’t either. May you truly be blessed this Christmas!  N

It’s Easy

Because Christmastime can be bedlam, I asked Peter Vander Meulen, head of the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action, to make it as easy as possible for us to celebrate Christmas as I suggest here. Visit, and you’re on your way. If you’d like that information sent out to you, please call 616-241-1691,
ext. 4165.

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