Welcome to one of the most joyous times of year! And along with that, I could also say welcome to one of the most stress filled times of year. We are in the season of Advent, the season where we prepare for Christmas, for the greatest gift we have been given. So here is my question to you:
Can Christmas still change the world?
“The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, redemption and relationship. So, what happened? How did it turn into stuff, stress and debt? Somehow, we’ve traded the best story in the world for the story of what’s on sale.” In my eight seasons of advent as a pastor I have been struck by how easy it is for all of us, me included, to get caught up in what the world sells as the perfect Christmas rather than what God as already given us as the perfect Christmas. Knowing this, a few years ago I started to hunt for ideas, themes, resources to help keep advent as a time of waiting and preparing, during this hunt I came across an organization called The Advent Conspiracy. This organization exists solely to help churches and Christians around the world, answer the question “Can Christmas still change the world?” I know the answer is YES, and with the help of this organization here is how I think we can all feel the answer is yes.
Here are four things we can do to help us focus, do and be during the season of advent, the 4 tenets from The Advent Conspiracy.
It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.
Quick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. America spends around $600 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that it joyless and goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.
I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t they just say I should spend less, and yet here they are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not just quantity.
It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. This is the conspiracy three churches began a few years ago, and has since grown to an international movement where thousands of churches have raised millions of dollars to love others in life-changing ways. It’s not that there’s something wrong with the shopping mall—it’s that the better story is about loving all.
Here is my hope and prayer for all of you (and for me), that Christmas this year is something of worth in your family, in your faith journey rather than something to just get though.
That we can spend less on worthless and needless gifts, rather we can invest in our relationships with others. Invest in quality time with our loved ones, spending on making memories rather than making more stuff. And then we can use some of that money we “saved” by not buying needless stuff and we can in turn invest in project, in people that are in need. It could be investing in the Buffalo food shelf or other hunger relief organization. It would be giving to Homework Help or other organizations that help kids reach their potential. We could give to global missions who help to house people, give clean drinking water and medical care. Mission Jamaica and the Village of Hope in Zambia are both places we already have a relationship with.
Think about all of this, how would these for tenets (Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All) help you to answer YES to the question, Can Christmas still change the world?