Yeah, there's a lot of bad 'isms' floatin' around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it's the same - don't care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.
Alfred the Janitor, Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
Poor Alfred, what would he think today? In recent years we’ve been treated to headlines about shoppers being trampled to death and one lady resorting to pepper spray in order to grab a bargain before anyone else. Does that put you in the Christmas mood? Whatever happened to Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men? This isn’t the holiday I signed up for—the one where people get in line two days before Thanksgiving to fill their shopping carts with Wiis and Ipads at incredible bargain prices. It’s supposed to be about the Savior, not savings. PS—to those stores that decided it was better to make a buck than let employees enjoy Thanksgiving with their families, I didn’t spend any of my money with you that day or any other since. I will not worship at the altar of your cash register.
At the same time, though sadly not as prominently in the news, food pantries and organizations like the Salvation Army are struggling to stretch their resources even further as demand increases and donations go down. The Boy Scouts’ food drive this year was down almost 30 percent in St. Louis. Our local paper showed bare shelves at a pantry trying to serve 60 families each week. Americans spent around $450 billion on the “Holiday Season” last year on lights, cards, ugly sweaters and Chia Pets. The Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign took in $142 million, that’s 3 hundredths of one percent of the holiday splurge.
For the past five years, our church has participated in the Advent Conspiracy—a radical idea to separate the birth of our Savior from the massive shopping frenzy. It’s done in four simple steps as seen on their website.
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: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. 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 was 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 really bad 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. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.