During a staff planning retreat this past summer the staff team was discussing the upcoming Christmas season. As we reflected on Christmas there was a consensus among us that it is so easy to fall into the commercialization of Christmas. We lamented about this and concluded that many others probably feel the same. We then decided that we would try and bring a different emphasis to Christmas this year at Westheights. We want to re-imagine Christmas as if we were starting over. What would Christmas be like if the commercialism were removed? However, we are also realistic and many of us are parents so we understand that a drastic change may not be realistic. We simply want to help people re-imagine a Christmas less driven by commercialism and more meaningfully focused on the birth of Christ. We are calling this the Advent Conspiracy.
We are describing the Advent Conspiracy with the four themes outlined below:
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.
Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: Canadians spend on average $1218.00 on gifts, decorations and entertainment during the Christmas season for a total of 38 billion. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks. Right? We’re asking people to consider buying one less gift this Christmas. Just one. Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle. They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.
God’s gift to us is a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?
When Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, He became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. If each family in our church gave one less gift, we would have enough repurposed funds to fill a stable with animals so a whole African village can thrive! One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.
I hope that you will get excited about this emphasis for our church. I think that many of us want Christmas to be different. I am hoping and praying that this year, we can all see Jesus in the manger in a fresh way.
Does this idea connect with you? Or is it just too early to think about Christmas?
Read an article in Faith Today on “Five Steps to a Simpler (and Holier) Christmas”. Really found it helpful. You can read it at: http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20101112?sub_id=HukHZ1AqTK5e&folio=36#pg36
Wow, that is an amazing example of where we are trying to lead the congregation: to re-imagine Christmas in a more meaningful way. That is so great that your family broke away from the normal Christmas consumption and focused instead on giving and helping others. What an encouraging story!
I really like the sound of this series so far Todd!
Since I was raised in a house where we celebrated Christmas but not with gifts/presents for my entire childhood, this is a message that resonates with me. The time that you mention that is created by being less busy on Christmas morning was instead filled by visiting St. Mary’s Hospital and singing carols to those separated from family on such a special day. Over the years that carolling (though I’m not much of a singer) has turned into one of the most important traditions during Christmas for our family.
The message of gift giving though is also one that I could be challenged with again since times have changed some things. We now have made gift giving a part of Christmas and with the step there is always a need to reevaluate the way we are spending our time and money.
Can’t wait for Christmas and I’m looking forward to the sermon series.