We are at the beginning of the Advent season...and it’s gorgeous. I love this time of year. I like colored lights and hot drinks and hearing the familiar sound of Salvation Army bells ringing outside every shop. It is a season of great Hope and giving. I have great memories of this season as a child. My mom and dad were intentional in their actions: we felt love and we understood generosity during this special season. (My mom’s love language is gift-giving and she has 10 grandchildren, so this time of year is like her super bowl.)
I love Advent.
Several years ago when my husband and I were living out West, our church took part in something called Advent Conspiracy.
The gist was that we were going to participate in a conspiracy to take Advent BACK. It’s been “stolen,” in a sense, by commercialism and materialism - Black Friday and the latest gadget you just have to have. Not to mention that this buy, buy, buy mentality leads a good majority of the folks we know into some amount of debt EVERY YEAR. Think of that: It’s Jesus’ birthday. He came to set us free. YAY! Let’s go out and buy a ton of stuff (unnecessary stuff of questionable origin) and weigh ourselves down with debt.
We’ve got it all backwards.
Jesus didn’t come to connect with people commercially or materially. JESUS comes to us relationally: blessing us with his incarnation, with his time, with his physical presence. As my husband and I thought on it, we realized that our most precious Christmas memories were those moments when we were spending time and fully living life with family and friends: dancing around the Kitchen to Elvis’s Blue Christmas, that last minute 24-hour drive North to sing carols on my Uncle’s front porch, annual Christmas Day brunch in pajamas with our friends down the street, the singing of Twelve Days of Christmas around the dinner table.
What we can’t tell you or remember: what we got for Christmas when we were five .
As we enter the season of Advent and we hear Christ Community talking about the Christmas Offering, I know that a lot of us may be thinking, “I already have so many things to buy. I just can’t do it.”
I understand. I’ve been there.
But if you want to experience a very freeing holiday, let me suggest that less stuff and MORE you is WAY more meaningful to whoever you “need” to get a gift for.
Invite your roommates for hot chocolate before the Christmas parade (Thursday Night). Make a Christmas card with an inside joke. Knit a sweater, draw a picture, write a story or a limerick or a song. Give someone your time - fix your mom’s computer (again) or do lawn work for your sister. Play board games with the kids in your life. They all have enough stuff - but they don’t have enough of you.
And if you happen to have saved any money in doing that - put it towards a worthy cause.
Christ Community has committed to serve Downtown Academy and every year we try to not only put our money, but also our time and our prayers and our love where our mouth is. This year we are trying to raise $15,069. $10,069 of which will go straight to Downtown Academy to help to purchase Chromebooks and curriculum, and to fund various school programs.
The remaining $5,000 will go to funding some needs at Christ Community.
If you’ve ever been at a Gathering, community group, or a men’s/women’s retreat, you’ll see quickly that this church is driven by an army of volunteers - many of whom BUY things for us to enjoy (out of their own pockets). This $5,000 from the Christmas Offering will go towards funding our ministries that are currently unfunded (men, women, college, the Grove). This will take a little (okay, a lot) of financial burden off of our ministry teams and volunteers. A portion of this $5000 will also go to help fund our Director of Operations position. This position is currently unfunded by our church, but is one of two people pretty much running this ship administratively.
I cannot say how much this “less is more” attitude of Advent Conspiracy has changed my family’s view of Christmas and how it encourages us to focus our energies on making memories and serving others - rather than buying the next big toy and frantically trying to find space in the budget.
Jesus came to free us and He didn't do it with material gifts or money. He served us. He cared for us. He healed us. He got to know us. He met physical needs. He loved us.
That's the path we are called to follow.
During this season, let’s use our freedom to serve the children and staff of Downtown Academy, as well as help support to the team of people that make Christ Community a great church to be a part of.