Summary: When we understand Christmas more deeply, we will worship Christ more fully.
Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully
Rev. Brian Bill
Note: The idea for this series and some content comes from a book by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder called, “Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?”
Doesn’t it seem like there’s some “Christmas creep” going on in our culture? There have been Christmas commercials on TV for weeks and it seems like we went right from Labor Day to lights downtown. Normally our family decorates the tree after Thanksgiving but this year we did it last weekend because Emily was home and we knew she wouldn’t be around this weekend.
We started by pulling out all the boxes in the basement and began putting up the decorations and Nativity set in the front yard. We then all piled in the van to find the perfect Christmas tree. Because we were kicking off our Christmas season early, it was a bit of a challenge but we found some trees at a local store. We waited for someone to help us and even went inside to see if a worker could come out to assist us, but no one came. Realizing it was self-serve; we pulled off the netting holding the trees together and picked out the perfect one, paid for it, threw it on top of the van and drove home.
When we got home I remembered that the bottom of the tree needed to be cut off so it would be able to drink the water in the tree stand so we made our cut. Then we tried to get the tree in the tree stand but it wouldn’t fit. Beth and I aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer so we whacked off some branches and made another cut. It still wouldn’t fit so we cut off some more branches and quickly realized that no matter how many cuts we made it wasn’t going to fit in our stand. We were almost ready to call it quits on Christmas.
Beth and I both had a brief pity party and thought about throwing the tree on the curb and buying an artificial one but then we remembered that we had another stand and tried that one. It seemed to work well but we had to cut off some more branches in order to get the tree to fit. In the process our full-length tree shrunk considerably and we lost 14 branches off the bottom. We then brought the tree into the house, filled the stand with water, and started putting the ornaments on.
When we got up on Sunday we admired our tiny tree and went off to church. We hung out in the afternoon, watched the Packers win (again) and then had our small group. Later that night, I had just walked into the kitchen when I heard a scream and a loud crashing sound. I rushed back into the Living Room and saw that our Charlie Brown tree was on its side, with broken ornaments everywhere. On top of that, there was brown sappy water all over our white carpeting. We thought again about throwing this cursed tree on the curb but instead just put it out on the porch until we cooled down. On Monday we purchased tree stand #3, an industrial strength model, put the lights and ornaments back on and it’s still standing - at least it was when I left this morning.
The Advantages of Advent
While our Christmas season started with chaos and near catastrophe, we’re a lot calmer now. Against our culture’s call to consume the clutter of Christmas, stands the simple yet profound season of Advent. This word means “coming” and refers to a four week period of time set aside for prayer, penitence and preparation to help us slow down enough to savor the Savior’s birth. I see Advent as a spiritual journey that helps us focus on the greatest gift of all so that we can worship the Word made flesh with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. As we experience Advent, it strikes me that one can never start too early when getting ready for something really big.
We’ll be using an Advent Wreath with four candles, thought by some to represent the four centuries of waiting between Malachi and Matthew. We’ll light a different candle each week and hear different readings from families in our church to help us reflect on His first coming and prepare for His second. We want the beauty of Jesus to shine bright in the busyness of our lives. And that can only happen when we slow down.
We’re beginning a new series today called, “Advent Conspiracy.” The basic idea is that we want to take back the story of the Savior’s birth as we fight against the spirit of consumerism that has stolen the soul of Christmas. We want to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple, but powerful, countercultural concepts – worship fully, spend less, give more, and receive love. This video explains more about where we’re headed.