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Expressing your love extravagantly

AFTER Lorna moved into a unit in a Blue Care village she instructed her family, "If I can't eat it or wear it, I don't want it".

It was nearly Christmas and she had spent most of the year culling her possessions to fit into her new home.

She kept some furniture and small precious things.

The process exhausted her.

She had started her married life with only the things she had put in her "glory box".

Strike up a conversation with older people about Christmas traditions and it is not the trips to the shopping centre that they talk about.

This is the time of the year when we are bombarded with advertising about things that we didn't know we wanted.

Some feel pressured to buy things they cannot afford.

Bible verses warn against such materialism: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."

A study of the parables of Jesus will bring us to the fool who built bigger and bigger barns.

If we read about the people of Israel in the wilderness, we are reminded that manna was a provision made fresh each day and people who tried to hoard it found it spoiled.

Indigenous people have lived gently on the earth for generations.

They taught their children that if they discovered a nest of eggs they must leave some to hatch.

For Western Christians, it can be difficult to avoid being drawn into a culture that encourages spending to the point of putting it on credit.

Friends told us that when their four children were small there was not much money for presents.

So they went to the local library and chose four books for each other.

They wrapped the books, put them under the tree, and spent the summer reading their partner's thoughtful choices.

Gary Chapman, in his book The Five Love Languages, claims that not everyone receives every present as an expression of love.

He suggests that five kinds of giving nourish different kinds of people.

He names the five "love languages" as quality time, words of affirmation, touch, acts of service and gifts. If you buy your child the most expensive gift and their love language is sharing quality time, then they will not experience the gift as topping up their love account.

You might as well have bought a balloon and spent the afternoon tossing it around the house together.

Even combing the nits from a child's hair can be experienced as a loving gesture of quality time.

A home-made gift voucher for a car wash, a cuddle or breakfast in bed might make an appropriate present.

While I recognise that business owners need to make a living, we could do some alternative gift-giving this year.

I know one minister's wife who gives a jar full of home-baked biscuits at Christmas time.

Another friend gives cuttings from her garden and someone else finds cute things in op shops and attaches a note.

A phone call to an old friend may be just what is needed.

I am a bit of a hoarder so my gift to myself is to empty some cupboards and donate good quality pre-loved clothes and books to a Lifeline store.

If you and your friends have all you need, make a donation to help someone feed their family or educate their children.

Giving expression to the extravagant love of God need not cost a lot of money.

Rev Kaye Ronalds is the Moderator of the Uniting Church.