It really is almost Christmas, and I am genuinely excited. Over the years, our family has been incredibly blessed by the changes that have become a part of our life as we celebrate Christ’s birth. It has become worship. “It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus.” This quote comes from the Advent Conspiracy website concerning worship (www.adventconspiracy.org/hope). The mantra within Advent Conspiracy is Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. I think Jesus is happier with our celebration of his birthday now than he was in the past; he smiles more at what we do. We worship him more fully.
What is worship after all? I used to think that worship only consisted of singing great hymns and songs or lifting prayers of exultation to God. Think of the number of times after a church service you have either said or heard someone say that they wished that there had been more time to worship, that the music was just too short. Or, that it was a great time of worship because we had a particularly long block of song and prayer. What about the rest of the service? What are we doing then? Or the rest of our lives for that matter? In the Westminster Shorter Catechism we are told that, A man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.Our chief end, the sum total of our life, is to glorify God. Wow! That pretty much says that everything I do is to be an act of ascribing worth and praise to God. So again I ask myself: Is what I’m doing this Christmas season making Jesus smile? Is he worshipped as a result of what I buy, how I spend my time, how I care for those around me?
Over the past three months I have shared about how our family and others have worked hard to Spend Lessduring the holiday season. Christmas does not equal consumption, and yet we are encouraged to go ever deeper into debt in the name of Jesus’ birthday each year. Buy one less gift. Give something lovingly used. Make gifts. We are working hard to resist the temptation that more and bigger is better, of trying to satisfy our longing for joy in Christ via stuff. I think that this makes Jesus smile. A nice side benefit is that I can smile in January when my credit card bill arrives. This link will give you many ideas as to how you can spend less during the holiday season (www.rethinkingchristmas.com).
I also wrote about how we might Give More. Christmas is not presents, but presence. Jesus gave of himself. We work hard to be there, to be more present, for family, friends and strangers in the activities of the season. Set time aside to participate in advent traditions. Think of those within our church family who are lonely, orphaned and widowed, and invite them into your celebrations. Take some time to be present in our community by sharing a meal and a conversation with the homeless. When I see my kids greet the homeless and offer them a cup of coffee and a sack of food, not only do I smile, but I think that Jesus is grinning from ear to ear.
I have reflected upon how we might be able to Love All by rethinking Christmas and contributing what we save to help those around the world who don’t have drinkable water. Advent Conspiracy has partnered with Living Water (www.water.cc/initiatives/adventconspiracy), an organization focused on providing water to the thirsty around the world via education and fresh wells. Up to now Living Water has been able to place more than 340 wells as a result of Advent Conspiracy projects. That’s 200,000 people that now have clean water as a result of first-world Christians rethinking their Christmas spending! I think that this makes Jesus smile.
This year, our act of worship is growing. We will be having a sleep over with a couple of other close families to focus on the birth of Christ. Each of us has drawn the name of another member to give a gift: something made, something used, or an act of service. Each person will bring an amount of money they want to offer up, and together we will make a purchase through World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, or Mission Impact. Yes, all nine kids will be participating as well. We will make something to give to an elderly couple in our neighborhood as well as a homeless woman we have recently met. We will pray. We will sing. We will play. And I think Jesus will smile. My guess is that there might even be times when he will laugh.
Maybe that is the key as to how I need to think about all the activities I am a part of during the holiday season. Does this make Jesus smile? The crazy thing is that when I Glorify God I really do Enjoy Him Forever. As a result, I really am looking forward to Christmas. None of this feels like sacrifice. I’m getting the picture that this way of thinking and acting is much bigger than December 25th. Let’s make the Advent Conspiracy a way of worship throughout the year. Let’s Worship Fully.