So it’s officially December now, which means many of us are already feeling stressed by the very long list of things we need to do over the next 24 days as we get ready to host family at our homes, cook Christmas dinner, exchange presents, and attend approximately eight zillion holiday soirees. Those of you who are fellow pastors are also in overdrive planning for Advent and Christmas Eve services and perhaps even some children’s Christmas programs. The calendar can begin to look downright menacing.
I’ve tried to make a concerted effort over the past four or five years to change some holiday habits that created more stress than Christmas spirit. (The first thing I crossed off was sending out Christmas cards- so don’t expect one!) In my family we’ve had many discussions of how to make this month what we really want it to be about- hope, and love, and spending time with family, and laughing around a table filled with good food; the insanely beautiful idea that light has been birthed into the world through a baby in a manger, whose unfathomable love for us will reconcile the whole world. And the simple truth is, none of these things requires purchasing a mound of material gifts. So over the past few years we’ve tried to find ways to make this Advent season more about hope and less about hype. We have slowly pulled away from the idea that Christmas is primarily about buying all your children’s wish list items or buying your family members a lot of things they probably don’t need or want anyway. We still buy some gifts, but we try to find ways to make them meaningful- ways to spend time together, experiences to share, homemade items done with love if not always skill.
At home and at my church, Journey, we have asked our children what we celebrate at Christmas, and they all respond proudly that it’s Jesus’ birthday. “I wonder what Jesus would like for us to get him for his birthday?” we ask. Last year, when I asked them that, they answered by saying things like, “To give love to people who need love” and “To make sure everybody stays warm this winter” and “To give food to people who don’t have enough.” They–and we–know what kind of presents Jesus would like for his birthday. This Christmas, why don’t we give them? Why don’t we take some of that money we would usually spend on ourselves or another sweater our kids don’t need, and spend it on something that captures the true heart of Christmas- spreading the light of the world in tangible ways to those around us.
Our friends at Advent Conspiracy feel the same way about the holiday season, so a few years ago they decided to spread this message around, certain that there were others like them (like us!) who wanted to reclaim the hope of Christmas. If you’ve never heard of Advent Conspiracy, click the link and watch the video. Perhaps it will inspire you to find ways to conspire for good this Advent as we enter into the season of light.