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The Advent Conspiracy of Giving MORE

December 4, 2008 3 comments

Last week’s news brought a disturbing picture of the American Christmas with gluttony of buying, resulting in at least one death. The picture of ravenous shoppers does not seem to reconcile with the image of God entering history in the humiliation of a manger. I wrote some posts last week on Christmas time vs Business time, and I had one more thought about responding to our consumer intoxication.

Angie’s post discussing the Advent Conspiracy video reminded me to write this up. The video challenges us to step back from the uncontrolled purchasing frenzy and spend more time relationally, serving the poor, etc. Angie responds:

The video says “Jesus gave himself relationally, incarnation, time, space presence.”

Exactly! Jesus also gave us climbing roses, puffer fish, Chianti, thunderous waterfalls, the aurora borealis, ladybugs, rosemary, penguins….he gave us gifts extravagant, needless, beautiful, abundant. Then He gave us the most priceless gift of all–Himself. Why not celebrate that in grand style?

And then later she suggests,

I’m inclined to think, though, that some (not all) may embrace this “Advent conspiracy” stuff as a way to justify their own laziness and/or curmudgeonliness. To those folks I say: stop griping about the celebration and start celebrating! Put up an extra strand of lights. Give your kid a little trinket every day from Christmas through Epiphany (the twelve days of Christmas). Buy extra hot chocolate and marshmallows for the family to enjoy while you have your Advent devotionals and singing.

Thanks Angie. Excellent points. I believe the proper response to our consumer-driven Christmas is to give MORE, not LESS. Christmas seems overly commercial because we celebrate it too little and not too much. The whole world is a pulsating expression of God’s extravagant giving. He overwhelms the saint and sinner with gifts of life and goodness.

I grew up in a family that practiced extravagant  giving. In other words, when we woke up on Christmas morning, we could barely see the tree for all the presents. My parents overwhelmed us. Some would say that spoiled us. They gave physically, tangible gifts that we as children enjoyed: trains and guitars and dolls and forts and more. And yet, the giving was NOT a substitute for time. They gave a time extravagantly as well. They played with us, told us stories, and listened to our stories.

They gave us so much, we couldn’t help but become givers. That’s right. The extragence was not simply self-induglence. It was celebration. It was an overflow of the joy they had in raising us. That joy continue to flow as we grew up. Our house became the center for all the lost friends and souls who had no where to go on Christmas (or any other holiday).

The party kept extending outward and inviting others into a celebration.

Did they give us too much? Of course (and they still do). In my parents, we learned the true intoxication of giving of everything. Presents, time, laughter, and life.

The answer to our outward culture’s selfishness is not inward selfishness (either in miserliness or in self-righteous judgment of those around us). Rather, it is in giving even more of our life, our love and our STUFF. Once we get the hang of it, giving is so fun that you can give anything away. Our hands open and we can freely give to the deserving (and undeserving), to the poor and needy, and even to the selfish.

So instead pointing fingers at all those evil shoppers. Let’s love them. Let’s love the down and outers. Let’s love the spoiled kids. Let’s love the forgotten kids. Let’s extravagantly enjoy the goodness God’s creation and give ourselves into a fit of uncontrolled hilarity.

Advent – Waiting on the Light

December 4, 2008 Leave a comment

Advent begins in darkness.

The children of God stumble and fall … into captivity. Cast into outer darkness. The Temple burns. The Promised Land is desert.

The land where milk and honey flowed lies waste. The lonely howl of hyenas echo across the desert plane. Jackals wander the ruined palaces. Wild goats and owls now dwell in this place that has become “no place.”

And the people once named by God now lie in chains with “no name.” Called to be a blessing, they’ve fallen under the curse. Called to bring the light of righteousness to the world, they multiplied the darkness of wickedness instead.

Century after century after century, they mocked the commands of God. They abandoned their high calling. They forsook YHWH, the Lord God who redeemed them from Egypt.

Finally, the Lord said, “Enough!”

And their idols became their captors, dragging them into exile and destroying their homeland.

Now they sit in darkness–no longer a people. Only the ache of loss and regret remains. In this place of darkness, of absence, of exile, Advent begins.

There is no laughter, no song, no joy in Babylon. Only weeping.

The people weep and wail and lament. They cry out to God for mercy. In their deep grief, these cursed people become the blessing they were created to become. For now their cry becomes the cry of an entire world, languishing in outer darkness.

And God hears their cry.

In the dark oblivion of hopelessness, they hear the light wonder of God’s promise. Isaiah’s words pierce the hellish night of captivity with hope:

“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Is 11:1)

A king will come from the house of David. A king will come. And,

“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” (Is 11:2)

This king will fear the Lord. This king will restore justice. This king will slay the wicked. This king will renew the land. This king will gather the children of Israel from the four corners of the world. This king will bless all nations.

And this king will be called, “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us.” When this king comes, Israel will know that God has returned to redeem and restore His people.

Their prayers were answered. The King came. The hope of this promised king became a light for all people living in darkness.

During Advent, we meditate upon this King whose light overcame the darkness. We meditate upon Immanuel, God with us.

God came to dwell among His people in and through Jesus. King Jesus entered into the darkness of His suffering people. King Jesus entered into the exile of His people cast into outer darkness. King Jesus drank the cup of suffering and hopelessness and pain caused by the sins of His people.

King Jesus took the griefs. King Jesus bore the sorrows. King Jesus bowed under the crushing stripes of judgment … for our healing.

During Advent, we watch and wait for King Jesus. He alone is our hope. He alone is the hope of the world. He alone brings light to a world stumbling in the darkness of captivity.

As we wait and watch, let us bring our sorrows, our desert places, our griefs, our sicknesses before King Jesus. As we cry out for the coming of King Jesus into our own brokenness, let us bring, bear the brokenness of a world crying out in desperation.

Let us cry out on behalf those suffering in Sudan. Let us weep for grieving in Mumbai. Let us bear the dark struggles of those languishing in Somalia. Let us share in the burdens of weak, frail, poor, forgotten, abandoned, forsaken, and dying. Let us cry out afresh for the coming of King Jesus.

We have known the light of love that pierces the dark death of hopelessness. Let us pray and give and act on behalf of all those suffering in this world. May they know hope and peace and joy and love. May the rule of King Jesus bring the light of justice and healing and restoration to all those cast into all the outer darknesses of this planet.

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