Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Hidden Christmas

November 29, 2017

In his book Hidden Christmas, Tim Keller tells the story of when he was a new young pastor in a small town in Virginia.  There were a number of dilapidated homes and trailers surrounding the church, which were inhabited by people who were poor and who had many social and personal problems.  Occasionally, one person would say to him that it was wrong for their middle-class church to hold its services in the midst of that neighborhood without reaching out to the residents.

One day, Tim and one of the deacons in the church, walked across the church parking lot to visit a woman who lived in a rented house.  She was a single mother whose broken relationships with men had left her impoverished, depressed, and living somewhat in disgrace in that conservative, traditional community, and raising her children with almost no help or support.  They sat with her and had a long talk about the Gospel. She responded with joy to the message of Christ Who was born into our world at Christmas.  She trusted her life to Jesus.

They went back to see her about a week later, but when they sat down with her, she burst into tears.  That week, she had called up her sister to tell her about her new faith in Christ.  Her sister laughed at her.

Her sister said, “Let me get this straight.  This preacher told you that a person like you could do all the foolish, immoral things you have done all your life, and five minutes before you die, you can just repent and trust Jesus and be saved just like that?  He told you that you don’t have to live a really good life to go to heaven?  That’s offensive.  It’s too simple.  It’s too easy.  I’ll never believe that!  And you shouldn’t either.”

Her sister thought that salvation had to be a great feat achieved by noble, moral deeds.  It couldn’t be something you just asked for.  The ordinariness of the Gospel had offended her pride.  They told the crying woman that her assurance and comfort were not unfounded.  They went to the Bible and studied until she saw clearly that Christ came as a baby, in weakness and smallness, not to save the proud, but to save those who admit that they are weak and need a Savior.  Her joy returned.  The ancient tidings of Christmas still make people glad today.

This is what Christmas is all about.  If we could earn our way to heaven, then there would have been no need for Jesus to come.  But, we can’t do that, so Jesus had to come.  He came in grace and mercy and forgiveness.  He didn’t live on earth with lots of money, servants, prestige, and privilege.  He lived an ordinary life among ordinary people like you and me.  We hope that you will experience that this Christmas.  We will hope you will see that Christmas is not about earning your way into God’s good graces.  It’s about admitting you can’t do that, but instead, trusting in Jesus, the Son of God, Who can do that for you.  Accept God’s gift to you this Christmas.  Accept Jesus, believe in Him, and follow Him.  That’s what Christmas is all about.

 

 

Advertisements

The Advent Conspiracy

November 30, 2016

A lot of people look forward to the Christmas season each year.  And each year, a lot of people are let down.  Instead of being the enjoyable season we see on TV, it has become a time of the year that is hurried, rushed, busy and stressed.  What happened?  How did it get to be this way?  In order to change this, a number of people and churches are discovering a movement called the Advent Conspiracy.  The Advent Conspiracy asks the questions, “Can Christmas still change the world?”  The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, redemption, and relationship.  So, what happened?  How did it turn into stuff, stress, and debt?  Somehow, we’ve traded the best story in the world for the story of what’s on sale.

How did the Advent Conspiracy get started?  It started in 2006 with five pastors who started to imagine a better Christmas practice for their own communities.  Today, the Advent Conspiracy is a global movement of people and churches resisting the cultural Christmas narrative of consumption.  These churches are choosing to celebrate Christmas differently by Worshiping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More, and Loving All.

1)Worship Fully.  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 up a song to 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.

2)Spend Less.  Quick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. America spends at least $500 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that is joyless and goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.

3)Give More.  I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t you just say I should spend less, and now you are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, quantity might be important, but quality is what’s really important.

4)Love All.  It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts, we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. This is the conspiracy a few churches began ten years ago, and has since grown to an international movement where thousands of churches have raised millions of dollars to love others in life-changing ways. It’s not that there’s something wrong with the shopping mall—it’s that the better story is about loving all.

So, what do you think?  Can we conspire together?  Can we get together and come up with a more significant, more meaningful way to celebrate Christmas?  It’s not enough to say “no” to the way Christmas is celebrated by many.  We need to say “yes” to a better way to celebrate Christmas.  If we intentionally devote more time and energy to Worshiping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More, and Loving All, we can make a difference in our own lives, in our families, and in our communities.  And if we make a difference there, it will begin to spread all over the world.  Today, thousands of churches are conspiring to celebrate Advent differently.  With each new person, and each new church, we end up making a far bigger difference than we ever thought was possible.  This year, let’s celebrate Christmas by joining the Advent Conspiracy.

(For more information, check out www.adventconspiracy.org)