All I Want for Christmas: The Advent Conspiracy

It can’t be a year can it?  Really?!?  We find ourselves once again in the middle of Advent making that almost inevitable journey towards Christmas.  Some of us have time-honoured traditions that we follow each year.  You will probably recognise these as part of your yearly routine as you prepare for the feast of Christmas.  Advent is a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for the twelve days of the Christmas season.

What do you mean this doesn’t sound familiar?

It seems there is an increasing disparity between the Christmas the church historic celebrates and the winter festival upon our TV screens and high streets.  At the heart of the two thousand year tradition was the tale of a child.  Christ’s birth tells of the incredible love that God has for the world.  As God stepped into His creation he began an earthly life in inauspicious surroundings placed by His teenage mother into a manger.  He joined a world marred by inequality, poverty and violence.  The Divine Christ Child came bringing a promise of hope, and a message of revolutionary love.

So how did we get from the Christ Child to 2011 and how has the world been changed by this message of hope?  Within the last few generations society’s structure has changed and we now live in a consumerist culture that drives us with a constant pressure to buy, to use and replace the things we have in our life.  As we look to the world around us we see an explosion of winter spending that is focussed upon this word Christmas.  What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a saviour has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, crowded streets and shopping lists. 

When it’s all over what are we left with?  Many of us return to those same shops to exchange the gifts we didn’t want.  We live in fear of the post coming through the door and the looming debt that will take months to pay off.  As we move through January is there an empty feeling inside of missed purpose? Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

This isn’t about being Scrooge and saying “humbug”.  In fact it is the polar opposite of that.  Scrooge wanted to get as much as he could out of the world and store it up for himself at the expense of those around him.  Christmas is much more significant than that.  God’s gift to us through Christ is a relationship built on love.  With this in mind, it is easy to see that Christmas would become the time when we seek ways to show our family and friends how much we love them.  What if we took that incarnational gift of love God gave us in the Christ Child as inspiration for the gifts we give this Christmas?  What if Christmas became 12 days dedicated to the significant people in our lives.  As children take time from their studies at school and people take time off from work, time becomes the real gift that Christmas gives us.

No matter how hard we look around the shops, we won’t find this gift of time:

“Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mum a letter. Time to take the kids sledging. Time to bake some really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?”Advent Conspiracy

As the world looks to the issues of wealth and poverty I encourage you to get together and give a gift that is meaningful.  Why not give a gift that is significant?  Why not have a look at Christian Aid’s wishlist at http://www.presentaid.org/ ?

A gift like this will transform someone’s life!  Surely this is the real meaning of Christmas? 

So…….   If you like me a little, why not buy me a goat.  If you like me more why not buy me 24 ducks?  If you like me a lot, I’ve always wanted to be a herdsman…..

And if you’ve already bought something, don’t stress about it – that would be self defeating.  And if you do buy me a goat, don’t do what my mate Tim did one year and panic after buying goats for his family and buy “proper presents” at the last minute.  This is a “proper present”.  This will make me happy.  I will genuinely enjoy opening them and seeing what is inside!

Why not give a gift that is inspired by God who cared so much about humanity he took the risk of taking human flesh and living amongst us.  He came bearing a message of hope that can still change the world for the better even two thousand years later!

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9 Responses

  1. Spot on.

    So good to see a Christian statement about, er, Christmas, that tackles the how and why we got to where we are now, understands how we feel and gives constructive thoughts about where we go from here – instead of simply berating the fact that we are in a mess about it all.

  2. I tend to think that you get more wasps with honey than with vinegar. 😉

    I love partying as much as the next and will enjoy Christmas when it finally gets here. The last thing I want is to stop people enjoying themselves. I just want to consider how we enjoy ourselves.

    This is something that Ruth and I have been challenged about a lot over the course of the last couple of years. We essentially have enough to live on already and there are plenty of people who don’t. She keeps asking the question “do we really need more stuff”? Essentially most people I know are like me. I don’t have enough time to do the things I enjoy or use the stuff they already have.

    If I write something down it may actually change me! I’d hate to get to my deathbed and find that I was still saying “I wish I’d just bought another….”

    [There is a little man inside me who automatically says “yes” when I am asked if I need more stuff but I’m trying not to indulge him.]

    Try reading a few pages of this starting from the bottom of p83. I found it food for thought:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lrofngAaTEoC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=the+messiah+formerly+known+as+Jesus+christmas&source=bl&ots=f8pL_SWTra&sig=rKKT1FDP4L2osii1veAcm0fVTAE&hl=en&ei=xJvCTsWhAZDp8QPP2c2DBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

  3. That’s an excellent video: last year we made a ‘christmas tree’ out of cardboard and paint. And liked it so much that we’re using it again this year.

    I’d quite like some goats actually, the’d eat the brambles.

    Will you be at Timbo’s wedding? It’d be nice to meet up there…

  4. I think I have to be there as I am the aptly titled “best” man. I think you may have to endure some of my guitar playing as well. It’ll be awesome to meet you!

  5. And the tree sounds awesome!!

  6. Thanks for that Tom Breen link Robb – food for thought indeed.

  7. […] the old song by Terry Scott, “My Bruvva”.  Yesterday on the blog I tried to articulate something about the way in which Christmas could still inspire us to change the world.  With this in mind […]

  8. Good stuff Robb – and more pertinent than ever in the current economic climate and considering how our desire for ‘stuff’ is denuding the world or resources and supporting oppressive and dehumanising work practices across the globe 😦
    I too wrestle with the little man telling me I need things and i heard an extremely challenging talk on this from a stoic philosopher when I was at a conference on scientific and religious responses to the energy crisis last year – a constant battle though 😦

    I love the idea of making the 12 days dedicated to the people who matter to us – and you’ve got me thinking about how that might work out in my family scenario….

    Have you come across Alternativity
    http://www.alternativity.org.uk
    They too are attempting to help people address the challenges you identify and they’ve produced some great resources – including a wonderful alternative to traditional Advent calendars (and they have something similar for Epiphany too)

  9. That looks like a great site. I need to have a look through the resources section properly when I have a little time. When I’ve got through the next few days I’ll have a look and see what we can use.

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