International (MNN) — It’s all too common these days to leave the Christmas season feeling spent — not just physically, but financially as well. Today we’re going to continue our talk about Advent Conspiracy — an intentional celebration of Christmas.
Advent Conspiracy is based on these four tenets: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.
Greg Holder, one of the founders of Advent Conspiracy and a board member of Living Water International, says the movement was a response to the craziness that surrounds Christmas.
“It isn’t even always just about the gift giving. It’s about the sort of rushed and harried nature we get sucked into in this time of year where we have these expectations on ourselves and each other on what it means to quote ‘celebrate Christmas’.”
We’ve already talked about Worship Fully, so today we’ll share the final three.
Let’s start this tenet by examining the problem, particularly in the United States:
The National Retail Federation found that Americans will spend an average of $935.58 during the Christmas shopping season — both for themselves and for others.
A Gallup poll from October found that on Christmas gifts alone, Americans will spend an average of $785. While the increase in sales is exciting for the economy, it’s indicative of our tendency to go big for Christmas gifts.
The numbers are even more shocking when we consider this: According to NPR, 47% of Americans would have trouble coming up with $400 in the case of an emergency. If that’s true, a lot of us are buying presents on credit.
Holder says practicing this tenet of Spend Less doesn’t put the kibosh on gifts. It means we are spending within our means, and with purpose.
“We really do understand the concept of gift-giving — we even see it in the story of the wise men. But the truth is, getting in debt for the sake of celebrating Christmas simply makes no sense,” Holder says.
This leads us to the next tenet. The concept behind Give More is based on the idea of deepening relationships. We’re not giving more gifts, but we are giving more of ourselves. Our primary example is Jesus himself.
“For us, Christmas is the story of the most relational gift ever. You know when Paul in one of his letters says, ‘Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift, this indescribable gift of Jesus.’ Well we understand what it means to give relational gifts by looking at the Christmas story. God gave Himself.”
So, what does that look like in our own lives? Gifts with more thought and creativity put into them. As Holder says, they are relational gifts, not just material possessions.
He gives an example: “When we first started the movement, there was a young man who got the whole concept, and so what he gave his dad was a bag of coffee beans.”
For some, a bag of coffee doesn’t seem like a great gift. But it was the note that went along that made all the difference.
“The note said basically this: ‘Dad, you’re only allowed to drink this coffee with me. And in the time that it takes for us to drink through these cups of coffee, I just want you to tell me stories. I want to get reacquainted with you again. I want you to tell me how it is that you became the man that you are.’ Now I promise you, that gift — that bag of coffee beans — meant more to that dad than any number of other really expensive gifts his son could have given to him.”
Finally, we come to the idea of sharing Christmas with people around the world.
“What we have asked folks to do is to take some of the money you would have spent buying those sweaters nobody was ever going to wear, and instead, give it to those that Jesus refers to as the least of these.”
Advent Conspiracy encourages co-conspirators to think about fighting the global water crisis by giving to Living Water International. This ministry is a great example of how being the hands and feet of Jesus is truly a celebration of the Christmas story.
“We think that is a way to partner with local churches around the world and a way for us to address what is still one of the leading causes of death in developing countries — the lack of clean drinking water.”
Slowing down and having Gospel conversations
These ideas are pretty radical, but they also have some pretty great outcomes. Are you wondering if Advent Conspiracy could make a difference, not just this Christmas but for eternity?
Holder says the discussion of doing Christmas intentionally means families will talk and plan together. It’s a great way to instill a giving spirit in your children. And, it’s an opportunity to share the Gospel.
“It also starts a lot of spiritual conversations, frankly, with family members who may not have a personal connection to the Christmas story or to Jesus in particular,” Holder explains.
Where to start
Although this is not a replacement for your current Christmas traditions, nor does it discourage gift-giving, you may be worried about what your family thinks of the idea.
Holder suggests, “You start small. You just start with something very practical. But you do this together and you get to celebrate together. And there’s a richness and a meaning there that might not have been there when you’re tearing through the presents on such a breakneck speed on Christmas.”
And if you’re worried about what your kids will think, Holder says, don’t worry. It’s usually the kids who get it first.
To start, visit Advent Conspiracy’s website. They have an abundance of resources for churches, small groups, or families. Although it’s too late for churches to start preparing for this year, it’s something to think about for next. Consider bringing this practice into your own family.
“For most of us, it causes us to slow down and to actually savor the gifts that are given. And when you can begin to connect it to giving to others, and often times faces and names that you won’t know this side of eternity, it very much sweetens the experience.”