Friday, December 23, 2011

Can Christmas Still Change the World? Yes!

Can Christmas still change the world?  Last week, our church concluded its series on the Advent Conspiracy, a book written by a group of emergent pastors who challenged the Western way of thinking regarding traditional Christmas practices (i.e. lavish spending) and instead promoted a more Christ-like approach, centered on the the idea that we should love others as God has loved us. 

 This year, we decided to incorporate our yearly Harvest offering (a BIG offering that we give each year to a certain global project) in with the Advent Conspiracy series, as it suggests for its readers to forego purchasing extra unnecessary gifts and instead give the money to a global need.  So instead of having it around November (which would coincide with the Harvest, normally, except this year excessive rain has forced many farmers to spend time on their combines well into December), we decided to hold the offering on the final Sunday of the series, as a tangible way to apply the message that has been given.

Like most Americans, I have been raised (immersed?  brainwashed?) in a consumer and product driven culture that promotes the Christmas season as being the perfect time to receive all of those things that I've so desperately wanted all year long.  My home (and many homes) echoes with the words "Just wait til' Christmas," which places an awful lot of pressure on the holiday as a time for dream-fulfilment.  I don't blame my family, or any other family for that matter; this is just what culture has taught us.  And in the church, we try to balance that message of "stuff" with the message of Christ.  Which, as I've gotten older, has become an increasingly difficult line to walk. 

And so, to be challenged by such a counter-cultural message as the Advent Conspiracy was an experiment to be sure; we know that Christmas can still change the world, and we know that Christ is changing the world, but are we willing to act on our knowledge, to forsake (or at least modify) our own traditions and practices to prove (with God working through us) that this is indeed true? 

Well, God reigns and breaks the chains of consumer culture!  Our congregation, with a regular attendance of around 180, gave over $17,000 this year to the Harvest offering!  This money, which could've been spent on meaningless frivolities, is now going to be used in mission work in Kenya, Palestine, Uganda, and East Africa to save lives.  As a church, we stood together and proclaimed God over and above ourselves. 

I write all of this not to brag on ourselves; this was not a work of Oak Grove Mennonite Church.  I write this to say that God still moves in big ways; He has worked through his servants, and He is glorified in this.  And creation, whom He loves so dearly, which is subject to the cruelty of greed and selfishness of humankind which seeks its own good over the well being of others, is being redeemed and restored back to God.  Amen and Merry Christmas!

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