I would imagine there is not much left of your turkey. Or stuffing. Or maybe even the pies. I mean we have to get that behind us because Christmas is coming. Nothing stands in its way this morning. For some, that’s good news. For others, not so much.
Several years ago, a few pastors were lamenting how they’d come to the end of another Christmas season exhausted and sensing they’d missed it again: the awe-inducing, soul-satisfying mystery of the incarnation.
No wonder there was a dread at the beginning of each new season as they prepared to proclaim, celebrate, and worship around the story of God entering our world as one of us.
A creeping kind of idolatry was consuming them and their communities.
It seemed as if everyone at church was just drowning in a sea of financial debt and endless lists of gifts to buy. An overwhelming stress had overtaken any sense of worship. People now believed the marketing lie that spending money is the best way to express love. This, combined with the American mindset that “more must be better” was now consuming pastors and congregations alike.
Somehow, this had become the new normal. This had become everyone’s Christmas routine. Every year people were being devoured by the Christmas frenzy, and every year the Advent season ended with a sinking feeling that once again, they’d missed the point.
How much do Americans spend of Christmas shopping ever year? $600,000,000,000.
These pastors did a little research and discovered that $600 billion could provide safe water access to the entire world.
So three pastors—Rick McKinley from Imago Dei Community in Portland, Chris Seay from Ecclesia in Houston, and Greg Holder from The Crossing in the St. Louis area—decided to try something different. They called their new “thing” the Advent Conspiracy, and came up with four tenets—Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All—to guide themselves, their families, and congregations through their season of preparation for Christmas. It started small—just the three churches and a handful of others who would try this experiment. They didn’t know what to expect, but deep down they sensed a longing to reclaim the story of Christmas.
And along the way a revolution was born.
A video posted on YouTube went viral with more than a million views. In those first few years hundreds of churches in 17 countries on four continents were participating, and millions of dollars had been directed to Living Water International to provide safe drinking water for people around the world. We were among them.
Since then, every year more churches and groups—numbering in the thousands—have conspired to celebrate a more Christ-centered Christmas. The beauty of the Advent Conspiracy, however, is not in its re-direction of resources, but in its power to transform us personally and as the Body of Christ. Churches that participate consistently share that what they love most about AC is how it transforms their season into one that is happier, more connected, and freer to focus on Jesus.
That’s what it’s all about. And next Sunday morning it all begins again. For that I cannot wait.