A common complaint during Advent is that we spend way too much time and energy and money buying gifts that aren't worth it.
Jesus is the Reason for the Season, afterall.
Christian environmentalist Bill McKibben's $100 Christmas first captured my attention about how to re-focus Christmas away from materialism - and not because I didn't even have $100. It was the peacefulness of the Christmas celebration he described. I'd already discovered that you might find Santa or that great seasonal kiosk in the mall at Christmas, but you probably won't find a lot of peace there.
The peacefullness of McKibben's idea of giving time and creativitity piqued my interest, but it seemed like a hard sell. I love giving gifts and yes, I love getting gifts too. Wrapped in packages. Bought in stores. Stacks of them. Exchanging gifts can be delightful. Christmas morning in my family was full of love and care and joy. I have great memories of my family on Christmas morning, even though I can hardly remember a specific gift I received.
Maybe that's the point. We couldn't overdo the love exchanged, even if we came close to overdoing the gifts. (One year I watched the nativity scene under the tree literally get buried in presents as Christmas came near. No room for Jesus???). The exchange of gifts isn't about the gifts. It's about something else.
I don't want to do away with the tradition of gift giving, but I applaud faith communities who try to uncover that something else. They challenge us to explore the connection between gift giving and genuine love, between materialism and meaning. They point out that there is a relationship between how we celebrate Christmas and how we celebrate Christ.
The latest effort to re-focus Advent energy away from materialism and toward the meaning of Christmas comes from Advent Conspiracy. Advent Conspiracy encourages people to buy one less gift and instead give the money away. They focus on clean water.
This idea of alternative gift giving at Christmas isn't new. At Prince of Peace, for instance, we heavily promote our syond's alternative gift giving program, Gifts of Hope. Collectively we donate tens of thousands of dollars to specific causes in our community and around the world on behalf of those we love.
What I like about Advent Conspiracy is the way it focuses attention on relationships, especially our relationship with Jesus. And I like the clear challenge: "What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?" It's a challenge that we need to keep in front of our faith communities so that we don't throw the baby Jesus out with the wrapping paper.
Please go to their site and watch the 2.5 min video. And ask yourself...