About 10 years ago, I ran across a book called
that was written
by three pastors who were struggling with the idea of Christmas and how easy it is to let consumerism take over. They recognized that Advent was meant to be a season of preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate Christ's coming at Christmas but also an anticipation of that day when Christ would come again. The sad reality is that for many of us Advent is more filled with to-do lists and activities that keep us so busy that it is way too easy to lose sight of why we are doing all of these wonderful things.
Within the book, we are invited to do four things: worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. I must confess, I love these four ideas and believe they are at the heart of Christmas. Let's ponder these ideas for a moment and I'll give you my take.
Worship fully. Think back to the Christmas story. You know the characters. You know the story. But have you ever stopped and considered: what was each of the character's reactions to Christmas? Each were led to worship in their own way. Mary's worship was humble submission to God's plan and marveling at this child that had been born to her. The angel's worship was through announcing to a field full of fearful shepherds that Christ, their Savior and Our Savior, had been born. The shepherd left their field to go and see and worship Christ, the newborn king. The wise men travelled a long distance to go and worship Jesus not only with their presence but with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those were there responses. How about you? How will you worship Christ our Savior and King who came and is coming again? How does this story of Jesus lead you to worship him full, not just on Sunday morning or Christmas Eve, but with your life?
Spend less. On the surface this seems like a full frontal attack on consumerism and buying gifts. That's not where my heart is coming from on this at all. But, if you are a parent or a grandparent, what are some of the most valuable gifts that you ever received? My guess is that it's not the ones that cost the most. It's the ones that your kids made in preschool. What makes those so valuable? The love that is behind them. The person who gave them. What's my point? You don't have to drain your bank account or max out your credit cards to have a beautiful Christmas. Give gifts that you want to give to people that you want to give them to (not gifts out of guilt or obligation to people you hardly know) that come from a heart of love.
You don't have to spend a ton of cash to communicate your love this Christmas. What if you were to take one gift of obligation off of your list this Christmas? What if instead of buying a fruitcake or a gift card or more stuff you were to make someone on your list something that really matters, something from the heart?
Give more. This one goes hand in hand with the last one. It doesn't take a lot of cash to give an awesome gift. What if instead of giving a present, we gave presence? What if instead of being concerned about stuff, we were focused on spending time together and creating shared experiences? I have to admit this idea did not originate in my own mind, but in the mind of God. As God gave us the greatest gift that we would ever receive on Christmas, he didn't give us a partridge in a pear tree or a gift card or a sweater that we couldn't wait to return. What did God give? He gave us the gift of His Son. He left Heaven to come and be with us. He entered into our story to do life together with us. God gave us the gift of his presence.
If then our gifts, albeit in small ways, are a reflection of that first gift that Christ gave us, then how can our gifts be personal? How can our gifts be relational? Instead of just giving something, what if instead we were to give ourselves and invest in the other person.
If Christmas is anything, it is the love of God for us. If you want to know the heart of Christmas, look no further than the baby in the manger where we hear the love of God in the baby's cry and see the love of God in the baby laying wrapped in swaddling cloths. Christmas is a season to love all. How can we this Christmas turn our attention and harness our energies to love all those people whom God has placed around us? Love our family. Love our extended families. Love the grumpy guy at the end of the block who personifies the spirit of Scrooge. Honestly, I already see you doing this in the way you treat one another, especially during the past few weeks. You have loved those in our community who are the most vulnerable through an awesome contribution of food and socks. 301 kiddos were loved around the world by getting Christmas for the first time because of your filling a shoe box. Christmas is definitely a time to share the love.
I don't necessarily agree with everything in Advent Conspiracy, but I do love the four ideas: worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and would challenge you to think about these four ideas. What one will you focus on this Christmas season?