Have you heard of Advent Conspiracy? It’s a great movement that encourages us during the holidays to “Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.” Their website has lots of great ideas, including the chance to contribute to Living Water International, an organization that helps provide clean water to people all over the world.
I found out about Advent Conspiracy last year and Mr. Math Tutor and I thought it sounded like a great idea. For the last couple of years, we have intentionally spent less on gifts by both giving fewer gifts and making more handmade gifts. We are trying to give a higher percentage of our income to charities such as Living Water International, but also to Ninos de la Luz and other groups. And, we’ve radically cut down our schedule and even now celebrate our Christmas over three full days (although you could argue that the schedule changes were mandated by my headaches – but, hey, whatever).
So, I was feeling pretty darn good about myself coming up on this Christmas season. While everyone else was hitting the malls on Black Friday, Mr. Math Tutor and I did our little bit of shopping online and I went back to my knitting. We put up our Christmas decorations, but chose not to put up lights outside because they’re just too much trouble. Even our Christmas tree is a 4 foot artificial tree that we put on a table to make it look larger. I was feeling pretty smug about how relaxed we are this Christmas season and how we can really focus on what it’s all about.
Apparently, though, I’ve been focusing on how great our family is. Kind of like a Christmas Pharisee. I got seriously convicted when I read the following on the Advent Conspiracy blog:
I’m worried that people are being guilted into Advent Conspiracy. The last thing we want is for people to feel like they can’t shop because their church or family member or friend told them it’s not the [AC] way. Because that’s not true. So what is the [AC] way? Simply this: We want to encourage people to do Christmas differently by worshiping Jesus first before anything else. We want to push back on hyper-consumerism. Notice the word “hyper”. We’re not saying you shouldn’t buy a gift, we’re merely suggesting you don’t gorge yourself on gifts or buy stuff out of obligation.
I know some think it’s hip to push against “the man”, but when it’s taken to extremes we sound like a man ourselves--an old man who’s gone all Scroogy on everyone, sitting on a hill of righteousness using scripture like rounds of ammunition. Who wants to be around someone like that at Christmas? Plus, we happen to know a few folks who could be considered “the man”, and they’re doing some amazing things for the kingdom through [AC]. You know what that means? That means this movement is for everyone, because Jesus is for everyone. Christ told us in the book of Matthew to love even “the least of these”. And guess what gang, we ARE the “least of these”. We’ve all fallen short, and we all need Jesus.
The advent season has begun. Let’s use this season to love one another well instead of making us-vs-them statements. Let’s put Jesus in front of us and let Him lead us into a life of joy and exhilaration to the point where we can barely catch our breath.
I was feeling self-righteous over how good I was being about Christmas. Just like the Pharisee who prayed “Thank you, God, that I am not like that tax collector”, I was saying, “Thank you, God, that I am not like all those materialists”. Yet, I am. Maybe not as much of a materialist as I used to be, but just as much of a sinner. And, apparently, you can add pride and self-righteousness to my (incredibly long) list of sins. What wasted energy I was spending on being self-righteous! Ugh!
So, tonight, let’s all sit down and enjoy the Advent season. Let’s shop joyfully because we are giving gifts to show our friends and family how much we love them. Let’s bake with abandon because we love our friends and coworkers (enough to ask them to consume thousands of extra calories, apparently). Mostly, let’s love others like Jesus loves them – completely and with abandon. I’ll do Christmas in a way that works for our family and not worry about how you do your Christmas celebrations (unless you plan to send cookies, in which case, chocolate chip without nuts is preferred - ‘cause that’s what Jesus would want).
If Advent Conspiracy sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, check out their website. They also have resources for churches that would like to participate in Trade As One and Living Water International. And remember to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All!!