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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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What if you could transform Christmas? Would you?

As Christmas approaches many of us are asking the same questions. We’re no longer interested in the idea of buying for the sake of buying. We’re interested in discovering the redemptive meaning of Christmas.  Are our relationships deepening?  Are we stepping into what it means to love  our neighbor in a restorative way?  Are we giving of ourselves in a way that truly has value?

Americans spend an average of $450 billion on Christmas. That’s 1,485 dollars for every man, woman, and child in America.  And yet are we really experiencing the original meaning of Christmas?  To solve the world’s clean water problem would require only $10 billion dollars.  What that means is the problem is not only solvable, it’s easily within our reach.

We would like to extend an invitation to participate with us this year in transforming Christmas from purchasing and getting to really giving.  Our goal is simple: To transform Christmas by gathering families together and sacrificially purchasing as many wells as we can.

We’re working with Advent Conspiracy and Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that has a long history of working with the poor and oppressed in the world. A well costs about $800 to repair or retrofit.  That’s less than the average spending per American to transform the life of a village. It costs about $2,500 to rehabilitate a non-working well and about $15,000 to drill a large well that serves a large village.

And we’re not asking you to just write a check on top of everything.  We’re asking you to consider working with us as a way of stepping into the deeper meaning of Christmas, a day when love entered the world in a profound way.  We’re asking you to consider giving sacrificially in place of the traditional mad rush of gift giving we typically do.

We’ve also created a brochure to understand what we’re doing, invite friends to participate, dream bigger, and help transform the meaning of Christmas.

Donwload it here.

If you do participate with us, feel free to steal the bug on the right or the banner from this post to spread the word.

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As Christmas season approaches, there may be a few of you who still haven’t finished all of your Christmas shopping. I get that. I used to wait until Christmas Eve at closing time because I could do it in two hours.  That feeling of expediency pervaded Christmas for me to a great extent.  There was really no love in the giving, more of an obligation really.  But this video, which is not new but will never really grow old for me, got me thinking about what people really want for Christmas.

People are looking for little expressions that remind them they are valuable and loved. And what better time to do that than Christmas. But it’s not in the present but in the giving that reminds them they are loved. It is in the thoughtful expression of remembering that someone still loves them that transforms the season.  And as Johnny shows, it is not hard to do, but it is often hard to do.

Love is like that.  It’s simple but hard.  It’s not expensive but it costs everything sometimes.  It means taking our eyes off of our selves for a while and trusting that we are loved.  It means really embracing His grace in our lives and letting go of our brokenness.  And when we love, we become part of the solution, part of His kingdom, and partakers in his glorious mission.

So this Christmas, remember to give love in some way. Remember to find that special way to remind someone else they are worth it.

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Some time ago, and I can’t really ever recall the moment, someone gave me the obligation to keep up the traditional Christmas tradition. Today I’m letting it go. And in the words of Sara Groves, I simply realized that “I can’t afford it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and will celebrate it this year. But I won’t be taking part in the flow that simply does it because were supposed to. I’m doing it because I want to. And there’s a big difference between the two.

I want to celebrate Jesus and engage what it means to live with a sense of expectancy rather than wait until the last moment and wonder, “Is it Christmas…again?” I want to discover what it means to give this year without expectation of anything in return, rather than mindlessly buy something for someone who doesn’t really need it anyway. I want to tell stories to my children about what the traditions mean, rather than just stick an ornament on the tree. I want to wake up on the 25th and realize that I’m celebrating the birth of Jesus, not the arrival of Santa Claus. I want to feast as a recognition of God’s blessing, not because it…because it…well it’s just what we’ve always done.

I think I know when I broke. I think it was standing in line at Starbucks and as I waited for my Chai tea latte, I overheard a woman talking about how she was just getting everyone gift cards this year because everyone complained about what they didn’t get last year. Or it might have been the girl at Chipotle complaining about how many people she had to buy for and how she simply couldn’t afford it this year. She didn’t know what to do. Or it may have been the moment I drove past Valley Fair on the freeway and the line to get into the shopping center was TWO MILES long. Or maybe it was hearing that we spend 45 billion on cosmetics in the U.S. and it would cost ten billion to SOLVE the clean water problem in the world. (I’m not picking on cosmetics. It just happened to be the stat I heard). And as I began to really listen to the people around me I realized that Christmas has become a burden, a thing, an obligation that has lost it’s true meaning. And the weight of that was evident everywhere around me.

Skye Jethani posted this excerpt at Our of Ur blog regarding his Christmas experience,

“Last week my wife and I got all of our Christmas shopping done—in one day. This blitzkrieg approach has become a tradition for us. It’s like pulling a tooth; better to have the whole thing out at once. In the evening we treated ourselves to a victory dinner at a restaurant. While savoring my accomplishment and my meal, I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas on the television above the bar. Ah, Christmas in America—spend all day battling the crowds at the mall and have Luke chapter 2 recited to you by a cartoon character at night.”

I listen to Skye’s experience and I know what that feels like. Somewhere along the way, it just somehow got screwed up. And the cost of that is a really bad credit card bill and a season that no longer is fulfilling. And I can’t afford that anymore.

I don’t really want to tell anyone how they should celebrate Christmas. I only know that how I don’t want to celebrate Christmas the way I used to. I want to abandon it so I can redeem the season. The church seems to be worried so much about how the world now calls the Christmas season “holiday”. And part of me is asking why are we surprised. They don’t know Jesus. And silly us. We’ve followed right along and captured the spirit of consumerism. I’m not throwing stones. I’m first in line of the guilty.

But I recognize that it must always be the church that leads the way to redemption. It must be His children that redeems the season, not the world. I don’t need other people to tell me the it’s okay to abandon so much of the traditions that we hold sacred yet have now become anchors to debt and confusion. I must first take that step on my own.

So I invite you this Christmas to abandon the obligation of Christmas, the vapid spending that provides an instant thrill but eventually leaves us with an empty heart as well as a pocketbook. I invite you to help lead the way to redeeming the season in such a way that the world begins to take notice. For those interested, you may want to check out Advent Conspiracy.

To Read Other Posts in this synchroblog, see below:

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Today is Black Friday. It’s kind of an ironically appropriate name to the god of consumerism. Black Friday is a reference to today, which is the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The term was coined by the press after the stress it causes people and was named after the Black Tuesday stock market crass of 1929. Niiice.

My wife and are deeply wrestling with Christmas this year. To be honest we don’t really want to participate. It has almost completely lost any semblance of meaning for us and we’re looking for alternatives. A friend of mine talked about taking a van load of gifts to a Mexican orphanage this year and my heart leaped. The trip would have meant missing any Christmas with extended family but I really didn’t care. And when my sister told me that we weren’t doing Christmas with the them this year, I had nothing standing in my way. Unfortunately the trip didn’t materialize so I was bummed.

Rick McKinley’s Imago Dei Community church created Advent Conspiracy, as an alternative to the typical consumer oriented Christmas of buying a million gift. I really like the idea and we’re looking into it as an alternative. AC is about giving, not presents. It’s about capturing the spirit of what Christmas is really about by making Christmas gifts and then giving the rest of the “Xmas budget” to a clean water project.

“Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption”

There it is, that word: consumption. Christmas is a big deal in this country. Shoppers are expected to purchase 454 billion dollars in November and December. Consumption is critical to keeping our economy humming. But is all of that consumption producing what we expected? It consumption making us bloated at the expense of something else? It is completely fair to say that I don’t need a single thing I would ever get from UNDER the Christmas tree.

I wrestle with letting go of the Christmas “traditions” because I know some of my favorite memories are of my childhood Christmas experiences. I don’t want to take the value of the holiday away from my three kids. But even those memories, with closer inspection, I realize are more about family that the gifts. The only gifts I can really truly remember as special were a G.I Joe and a bike.

The memories that really stick out to me have nothing to do with the presents. The best ones were hanging out with family. I remember the long drives on Christmas Eve morning to Los Angeles to my grandparents house. I remember hanging out with all my cousins and playing endless hours with people. The presents were fun but it was the people that I remember the most. Even later in life, I remember the 27 person dinner table conversations filled with laughter. One thing my family knew how to do was laugh.

And two things really sticks out to me. The first was that my mom always invited someone to Christmas Eve, which was the big night in my family. And she was so good about making them feel so special and part of our family. When I was young this felt awkward, but as I grew older I began to see that she got what Christmas was really about, the deep need for connection. The second was that the “gift” really didn’t do much for me. Yes it was cool to get the latest shirt all my friends had or the Star Wars collectible set with 367 pieces, but to a great extent the newness wore off very quickly and that thing that I got ceased to become the center of my attention withing days. I see this same process happen in my children.

The more I look at Christmas, and Black Friday, the more I wonder if Christmas has taken on a new meaning. In the endless drive to fill the tree with presents, has it become a way to compensate for our lack of connection as human beings? Do we give the endless stream of gifts as a way of saying sorry for the lack of connection throughout the year? Has it become the only way we know how to connect, through the process of giving gifts. Has it become a forced ritual that leaves us wanting? And in the end, do all of the gifts leave us as sick as when we started?

If you have a really good alternative idea for Christmas, I’d really like to hear it. My family and my soul would really be interested.

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