Tag Archives: Advent Conspiracy

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

AC_header_LWI_NEWLast Sunday, as part of the Advent Conspiracy, I preached on “Spend Less” and shared a specific story about an alternative giving idea. Nancy W. Gavin started a tradition in her home of placing a small white envelope in the Christmas tree. Inside the envelope was a very special gift. You can read her original inspiring story (published in Woman’s Day December 14, 1982) here.

The main reason I “Spend Less” on Christmas gifts (that are often given out of guilt or custom) is so that I can truly “Give More” in the Spirit of Christ. As an Advent Conspiracy pastor wrote,

We 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 quantity.

A strong Christmas memory from childhood was opening our special family present. It was often a simple board game: Clue or Mousetrap or Trivial Pursuit. We would then play the game together, enjoying the friendly competition. I have no memory of who won or lost, but I do remember the powerful sense of family joy. My parents practiced “Give More” in that simple present.

 

After my sermon on the white envelope someone talked with me about starting their own white envelope tradition in their family. I gave him a few ideas on what projects he might consider. One was our local food shelf. Another idea is to give a gift from the ELCA gift catalog, such as a goat or pig to a family in the developing country or a week’s tuition for a seminary student. You can learn more about such good gifts at the here

The practice of “Give More” is at the heart of the Christmas story. Jesus gave himself for us. In the babe of Bethlehem, God came to us in a simple child, vulnerable and poor. As Paul reminds us

Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. (Phil 2:4-8, The Message)

How might you “Give More” this Christmas?

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving yourself. Teach me to give in new ways.

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Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

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Advent starts immediately after Thanksgiving; so does all the hoopla of Christmas shopping.

Growing up I was blessed to be part of a traditional yet wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. First my family would go to church in the morning, sing hymns, and offer prayers of thanks to God. Then we would come home for the fantastic meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, fresh-baked rolls and all the goods. Then after the meal we would take a break, either play a family board game or watch a football game before we ate the most delicious pumpkin pie. It was a wonderful, joy-filled day.

But it all changed when I entered Junior High. Oh we still had the church service, and the huge delicious family meal. We would still take a break prior to the pie. But instead of playing a board game or watching football, I had work to do.

Paper BoyI had an afternoon paper route for the local paper.

Normally my five mile route was manageable on my bicycle; the paper was only 24 to 32 pages and fairly light and the total load of 100 plus papers was not overwhelming.

But on Thanksgiving day, that all changed. The paper always swelled to over 100 pages due to all the advertisements. Every store in town had ads or inserts for the biggest shopping day of the year: The Friday after Thanksgiving; Black Friday.

But did I care about all those ads? Not a bit, since it only made folding and delivering my 100 plus papers so difficult. I grew to hate all the advertising hoopla that kicked off the Christmas Shopping frenzy. As I made the trek around the neighborhood, I wondered what all that shopping frenzy actually bought?

On average, each American spends over $700 on Christmas presents. That is nearly 200 billion dollars. The next question: What is 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 remember because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed.

AC_Spend_ICONAdvent Conspiracy challenges us to rethink our Christmas shopping frenzy. Spending Less is not 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. So much of our spending goes right onto a credit card which adds a new stress when January’s bill rolls around. By Spending Less, or spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.

Spending Less is an invitation to reconsider what (or who) is at the heart of Christmas. Jesus came into the world to give us life: vibrant, faith-filled life. He did not come to make sure there was large pile of presents under the Christmas tree. He came to set us free, even from the dangers of rampant consumerism.

What would Spending Less look like in your home?

Lord Jesus, help me to keep my focus on you, even as I take out my credit card.

Advent Conspiracy Intro

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The season of Advent begin on Sunday, December 1st. Advent includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas.  This Advent Resurrection Lutheran Church is participating in the Advent Conspiracy.  Too often the season of Advent is a whirlwind of gift-buying and party-preparation that misses out on the centrality of Jesus’ birth. The Advent Conspiracy seeks to reinvigorate the purpose of the season by refocusing our attention on Jesus.

The Advent Conspiracy (AC) was started by church pastors several years ago as a way to keep Jesus central during this hectic season. (You can read about it here)

As the AC states

We all want our Christmas to be a lot of things. Full of joy. Memories. Happiness. Above all, we want it to be about Jesus. What we don’t want is stress. Or debt. Or feeling like we “missed the moment”. Advent Conspiracy is a movement designed to help us all slow down and experience a Christmas worth remembering. But doing this means doing things a little differently. A little creatively.

Christmas Angels

The four Sundays of Advent each have a special focus.

December 1
Worship Fully 

AC_Worship_ICONChristmas marks the moment where God’s promise was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that deserves our full attention and praise. We put Worship Fully as AC’s first tenet because we believe the level of our involvement at Christmas is based entirely on how much we are celebrating Christ’s birth. He deserves celebration; one that is creative, loud and directs every heart His way.

For Resurrection we are delighted to welcome Dr. Michael Chan back as he preaches on Daniel 3 and the trust and power of worship.

The other three themes (which will have separate blog posts in the coming weeks) are

December 8
Spend Less

December 15
Give More

December 22
Love All.

What do you appreciate about the season of Advent?

Lord Jesus, deepen my love for you and your people throughout the season of Advent.