Summary: Spending less means spending differently; it lets us focus on gifts that meet needs, and are meaningful, and memorable.
ADVENT CONSPIRACY: SPEND LESS
Big Idea: Spending less means spending differently; it lets us focus on gifts that meet needs, and are meaningful, and memorable.
• Reading from the Old Testament: Malachi 3:1-4
• Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 126:1-6
• Reading from the Epistles: Philippians 4:10-19
• Reading from the Gospels: Luke 3:1-6
SPENDING MORE AND GIVING LESS
SPENDING LESS AND GIVING MORE
Do you know what the nation’s fastest growing religion is? It’s not Islam or Christianity. The symbol of this rising faith is not the crescent or the cross, but a dollar sign. You see, there is an expanding belief system in radical consumerism. It promises transcendence, power, pleasure, and fulfillment. It promises to solve the problems in our society and national economic dilemma even as it demands complete devotion. I’m afraid that many American Christians have incorporated this devotion to consumerism into their Christian faith. The consumer culture we live in claims that the material things we want will elevate us above our current circumstances.
The headlines that scream at us are crazy. The luxury cars with big bows, the newest smart phones and tablets, the exotic trips … they all have one thing in common … they promise you happiness … AT A PRICE!
Here’s the deal. At the very heart of consumerism is dissatisfaction and discontentment. Check out this quote: “We are constantly searching for the one thing that will satisfy us. Yet each time we trust the promises of our possessions, more barriers are raised between our true selves and God’s plain command to love [Him] above all things. It’s not that we necessarily want more – it’s that what we want is something we can’t buy.” (From “Advent Conspiracy,” page 24).
It’s like we are searching for God and have settled for stuff instead.
• CNN Money reports that Black Friday spending was at a record high this year. It was up 13% from the previous record. Not only were more shoppers out but individual shoppers spent more this year than any other year as well (http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/25/pf/black-friday-sales/index.html).
• Reuters wire said: “Consumer spending rose solidly in September, putting the economy on a firmer footing heading into the fourth quarter even though households had to pull back on saving to fund purchases” (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/29/us-usa-economy-spending-idUSBRE89S0K420121029).
We have looked to the immediate as our basis for happiness and well-being. Consumerism has become a god in America. In the midst of our consumer culture, the words of Christ from Luke 12:15 should cause us to pause: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Seriously, if you’re not happy without something; you won’t be happy with it either. Eric Hoffer said, “You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.”
In Isaiah 55:2 God wonders why we don’t come to Him … why we persist in pursuing those things that were never designed to satisfy: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”
In the midst of all the clamoring for you to buy more, we need a fresh look at the Christmas story to see both the simplicity of the Savior’s birth and the extravagance of the Almighty who gave His Son as the ultimate gift of all. Listen to these familiar words found in Luke 2:7: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Rick McKinley urges us to take a fresh look at the original Christmas story because “the story has been bought and sold and marketed and commercialized for hundreds of years. Yet the story remains deeper and more meaningful than most of us often realize…Why would God do that? The answer can help us go from life-absorbing shopping lists this Christmas to life-altering significance. When Jesus came to us, He came in simplicity to a humble couple who had very little money. So the true meaning of Christmas has never been about stuff; it has always been about Him. … How strange and sad it is that debt and consumerism reach their pinnacle on the morning we celebrate the birth of Jesus – the Savior who came to liberate us from these things.”
Maybe you are ready to join the ranks of many Christians and say “Enough!” That’s a healthy start. The Advent season needs the Gospel simply proclaimed and the work of Jesus simply done…our return to the simplicity of the Gospel is a necessity…the Gospel never needed tinsel to look good anyway.