This Advent, our congregation celebrated the season leading up to Christmas with a Giving Calendar. Each family in the congregation was given a long banner made of sealed envelopes. Each day in December they opened one and carried out the instructions. On day one the message was, “Give hope: Put up Christmas lights or move a lamp so that light shines out the window at night this season.” On day five it was “Give kindness. Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru, put money in an expired parking meter or take a peanut-free treat to share with a friend at lunch.” Day twenty was “Give love. Draw a heart in the bathroom mirror with soap, or in the car windshield with your finger.”
I found myself looking for opportunities to be kind, share love, and give someone a break. It helped to readjust my attitude, and added a fresh element of joy to a busy season. A woman at Starbucks in downtown Toronto even rushed over and gave me a huge hug when the cashier told her I had paid for her coffee!
It was not just the congregation who was invited to celebrate by giving, though. Every day I posted the giving ideas on Facebook and was delighted to see people share it. But even that wasn’t taking our giving far enough, so I used the lawn to share our message.
Our congregation borders Upper Middle Road, and there is a long stretch of grass sloping down toward the sidewalk. I decided it would be the perfect place for our giving calendar.
First I collected used lawn signs, which was no easy task. Many of them were old election or event signs, others had blown over. Thankfully I have some wonderful, adventurous teenagers in my life who were willing to drive around neighbourhoods and search with me, and jump out when we found one stuck to a fence or lying in a ditch.
Next, I employed a young art student from our congregation. P. is a sweet guy and figured out the best (meaning practical and cheap) kind of paint. We turned the signs inside out, since the inside of every one is plain black plastic. And he used a steady hand to print out the simple letters.
Every day during Advent, I took a sign and trudged through the ice and snow onto the lawn. Some days when the ground was especially hard, it took a serious effort to get those metal stakes in the ground! But one by one, we invited the community–especially the commuters who pass by every day–to give.
For someone who really doesn’t like plain, boring lawns with nothing but grass (monocultures are not my thing) this was a lovely act of redemption. That lawn became a platform for connecting with the people who may never set foot inside my church. And who knows what generous acts we inspired with our signs?
I always say that God has the power to redeem anything. Turns out it’s true, even on the lawn.