Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation—a time when we are called to look to the horizon and to live our lives in the light of God’s great gift to us: Jesus Christ.

But as we count down the days to Christmas, it’s easy to become stressed and overwhelmed, distracted by endless to-do lists and last-minute shopping trips, even as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the ‘Prince of Peace’. The Christmas tradition of gift-giving took its inspiration from the Magi and originated as a way of responding to and participating in God’s love for the world, expressed most profoundly in the gift of Jesus. But too often it becomes a burden, a flurry of materialistic excess that can leave us feeling drained and anxious.

One way we might reclaim the more life-affirming origins of the Christmas gift-giving tradition, though, is by ‘sharing the love’ more broadly and by giving to those in our communities and our world who are most vulnerable and in need of our generous, practical assistance. Many organisations and charities now also offer special Christmas ‘gift card’ programs that allow you to purchase a truly meaningful gift in the name of a loved one, so that you can share the joy of giving with your friends and family.

To start the ball rolling, here are just a few Catholic organisations that you might like to consider supporting through financial donations or the purchase of ‘gift cards’ for your nearest and dearest this Christmas.

1. Caritas Australia—Global Gifts program

Through its ‘Global Gifts’ program, Caritas Australia—the international aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church in Australia—invites you to share a gift that can change a life. Your Global Gift will help bring hope and joy to the world’s most vulnerable people. Gifts range in price from $10—providing a chicken to students in the Solomon Islands and helping them improve their livelihoods—to $600 for the construction of a water borehole, providing clean water to a community in Tanzania.

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2. VMCH—Christmas Hamper Drive

For the past eight years, through its hamper drive, VMCH has tried to ensure that those it supports do not feel alone at Christmas, despite often being socially isolated or financially disadvantaged.

VMCH CEO Sonya Smart says while the organisation is grateful for the assistance of its regular donors, supporters and volunteers each year, extra help from the public is needed in 2022 to make the hamper drive possible. Starting with 30 hampers in 2015, the demand has since skyrocketed with the sharp rise in the cost of living and with businesses who have previously donated items being hit hard by the pandemic. This year 750 hampers are needed for older residents living in VMCH’s affordable homes, and for children, adults, families from VMCH’s disability services, and clients who receive care at home across Victoria.

Recipients say receiving hamper items such as food, decorations, toiletries and toys makes them feel less alone.

Among them is affordable homes resident Marjorie, aged 85, who says she still remembers receiving her first Christmas hamper more than six years ago. ‘I was like a kid at Christmas,’ she recalls. ‘I was just not expecting it and I was so impressed with the items inside.’

For some people, I know it’s the only present they receive at Christmas. To me, it’s not even about the gifts, but the gift itself is that someone is thinking of you.
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Affordable homes resident and hamper recipient Marjorie. Photo courtesy VMCH.

3. Catholic Mission—Life-Giving Gifts

Through Catholic Mission, the Pope’s international mission agency, you can contribute to a broad range of exciting Catholic mission projects. Life‑Giving Gifts support a variety of mission projects supported by Catholic Mission around the world, and are grouped into categories such as education, food and water, health, Ukraine support and faith.

For example, for just $9, you could purchase a school uniform for a child; $26 will contribute to the cost of formation and education for seminarians; $44 will cover transport for a Ukrainian refugee; and $98 will purchase enough fruit trees to cover 50 square metres. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, $10,050 will help build a school.

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Ukrainian refugees. Photo by Kevin Bucket on Unsplash.

4. St Vincent de Paul Society—Christmas Appeal

According to the St Vincent de Paul Society, cost-of-living increases are pushing tens of thousands of Australian families into poverty and putting them at risk of homelessness. Through the Vinnies Christmas Appeal, you can help put food on the table, keep the lights on and keep a roof over the heads of vulnerable Australians like Kelly and her family.

‘When the electricity bill came in, I literally dropped to my knees,’ Kelly says. ‘There was no way we could pay it. It gives me so much anxiety. Every time they’re bigger. We don’t have that money. What are we supposed to do?’

Every day, more families like Kelly’s are turning to Vinnies for help with food, bills and basics like clothing and furniture. Donating to the Vinnie’s Christmas Appeal is a simple but effective way to help ease the burden on vulnerable people in our community this Christmas.