Thursday, December 05, 2013

Advent Conspiracy: What Do You Treasure?

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  Luke 2:19
Merry Christmas PCC!

This morning I was struck by the response of Mary, in Luke 2 to the birth of Jesus.  She treasured… the word means to preserve, to protect, to hold. An unfortunate reality of the human condition is that our hearts and minds leak--the experience we relished one moment, the resolve we committed to one moment, the promises we made on one day--can pass so easily from our affections, memories and wills. Mary, in Luke 2, seemingly stopped time, took mental snapshots of the moments and let them soak deep into her soul because through Jesus her soul felt its worth. (To quote the line from O Holy Night.)

Let me ask you a question: come June, if you were to reflect on Christmas, what will you treasure? This is the whole point of Advent Conspiracy, to conspire together as a community at PCC to believe that Christmas can still change the world, to treasure the incarnation, the new life that Jesus came to bring, eternity and relationships.  To leverage the American cultural Christmas celebration, and trust God to use our counter-cultural, sacrificial rhythms of Worshipping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More and Loving All to allow new life in Jesus to spring up locally and around the world.

Today, in the Wall Street Journal, an op-ed piece ran regarding Advent Conspiracy.  It has a long but fitting title: Everything wrong with Christmas in one column: Spend cash on something far more worthwhile than presents. Here is a segment of that article, written from someone who most likely doesn’t share our spiritual convictions The whole article can be found here.
For most of my life I have watched Christmas degenerate into a greater and greater orgy of greed, frenzied shopping and waste. But this year I have finally had enough. Watching stores open on Thanksgiving just to squeeze in a few more hours is the final straw. People can’t sit down to eat with their families, one day a year, without having to get up early and go and buy a new TV? Stores can’t let their staff take one day off, instead forcing them to come in on Thanksgiving evening? What can one say of a society which cannot even take a 24-hour break from this, except that it has completely lost its mind? 
The only time I ever see TV these days is when I’m at the gym. The sheer tsunami of advertising, Christmas jingles and schmaltz makes me physically ill. What on earth does any of this have to do with the messages of Jesus? It is pure blasphemy. It’s an obscenity.
Three cheers this season for Advent Conspiracy an international campaign to roll back the horror. The Advent Conspiracy want us all to “turn Christmas upside down” (or rather, to turn it back the right way up) by, among other things, spending less and giving more. 
So I’m taking two steps this Christmas. They aren’t much, but they are something. The first step is that I am giving away (or giving up) all presents. Please, if you know me, do not buy me anything. Please give the money instead to someone who needs it. I am middle aged, middle-class, and I do not live on an Arctic ice floe with no shops. So if I wanted something, I would already own it. 
My second step? This holiday season, all the work I do will be for the needy as well. Every single thing I earn in the month of December I am going to give away to charity. Every nickel. Every dime. Will anyone follow suit? It’s only a small thing but it’s what I can do. Amazingly enough, there are people out there even more fortunate than I am. You know who you are. How much are you giving? How are you celebrating Christmas?
PCC, I am beginning to understand that maybe the rabid consumerism which drives this season in America is more toxic to my soul and ability to treasure than I first thought. Some 400 PCC’ers have signed on this year as early adaptors and participants in the Advent Conspiracy. Please stop right now and pray for us. The idolatry of consumerism runs deeper than many of us realized.

This Sunday we will focus on the second aspect of the conspiracy, Spend Less. If you want to read ahead, we will be studying 1 Timothy 6:17-19. I love Christmas PCC, unashamedly so. May God grant us, who live into the identity as disciples of Jesus, the strength and perspective to stand out in our celebrations of Christmas this year.

I love being your pastor!