Unique Gifts for everyone
on your Christmas list...
(plus info on the "Advent Conspiracy")
After both services (9 and 10:45 am) on Sunday, Nov. 21, you'll have an opportunity to purchase gift cards that indicate a gift has been given in a person's name to a powerful and helpful project around the world.
These gifts are encouraged as part of an effort to cut down our focus on "things" and shift it more to People.
On that Sunday, special informational displays will be up to explain our selection of "gifts" for this Christmas.
2010 selected projects include:
- Frido Kinkolenge of Liberia... our covenant missionary in Africa who works with young people caught in dangerous and broken situations.
- Footprints Christian Children's Center (FCCC) ... our infant, pre-school and elementary school mission to those parents who need quality child care that fills the children with the love of Christ.
- Soup Kitchen / Sandwich Shoppe... our twice a week meal for all who are hungry in our neighborhood that has served up to 800 per week!
- Youth Support Association (YSA)... the community service begun by our church that now reaches into schools and the surrounding community with phone friends for children and youth, tutoring, and classes such as anger management and parenting.
- Worldwide United Methodist Church Benevolences (UMC)... our share of the combined giving of United Methodists around the world to address all sorts of missions, needs and challenges.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The Advent Conspiracy is an international, inter-church movement that is “restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.”
It encourages partnering churches to embrace: Worship more, Give more, Spend less, Love all.
...is not about no giving,
just different giving.
• Value-driven giving.
• Creative giving.
• Low-cost giving.
• Discipleship giving.
• Giving to need
and not giving to want.
The Advent Conspiracy is an international, inter-church movement that is working to combine first-century understanding of the "Advent Of Jesus into our lives" (the time before Christmas) with a 21st-century mindfulness.
The movement encourages partnering churches to embrace four themes during the Advent season:
• Worship More — Worshiping Christ can become the greatest and most enjoyed focus of the season.
• Give More — God gave his Son as a relational gift; Christians can try to give more meaningful, relational and experiential gifts instead of just expensive ones.
• Spend Less — Decrease the volume of purchasing and receiving costly Christmas gifts.
• Love All — In the Advent, Jesus enters our poverty so we will no longer be poor. With the money saved by giving relationally and resisting consumerism, people can redistribute that money to the “least of these” in their communities and the world.
The campaign flies in the face of many of our comfortable Christmas traditions. Hence many of our parishioners might hope that consumerism will be replaced with compassion.
In addition, there are a number of nonprofits which are urging that Christians recapture the sacred during the season. Often this happens through giving gifts to the needy with various other organizations. Through the Heifer Project (heifer.org), you can buy a milk-producing goat in a loved one’s name that will be given to an impoverished African village.
Through Compassion International(compassion.com), you can sponsor a child’s school uniform and books for the year for less than the cost of another argyle sweater for Uncle Fred. World Vision (worldvision.org) has a gift-giving program that allows individuals to donate an alpaca, a goat, a pig, fishing kits, scarves and more (go to worldvision.org and select “Ways to Give” and then Gift-Giving Catalog from the drop-down menu). Bread for the World (bread.org) asks you to become a part of its “Baker’s Dozen” program. At Kiva.org, people can make loans to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world, “empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.”
Perhaps we might choose a church-wide project — our missionary Frido, a loan, a heifer, a sponsorship or some other effort — as part of your Advent celebration.
We get it — that Christmas is a secular, commercial enterprise. And we don't like it. We would love to “invest” in a way that would bring an ROI of a hundred- or two hundred-fold.
Advent is the most positive season of the year, and we Christians have a huge opportunity to be a positive factor in the lives of others.
Christmas needn't be about maxing the credit cards — that’s negativity right there, and none of us looks forward to the January economic hangover when we get the bills.
The Advent Conspiracy is not about no giving, just different giving. Value-driven giving. Creative giving. Low-cost giving. Discipleship giving. Giving to need and not giving to want.
Do we need to be even more comfortable and entertained while one-sixth of the world does not have access to clean drinking water?
What’s more beneficial to our children’s development: another flashing, chirping, battery- eating Toy-of-the-Month, or the knowledge that Christianity involves the sacrifice of forgoing some of our desires on behalf of others’ needs?
In 2007, partnering churches were encouraged to turn Advent into a counter-consumerism campaign by collecting money otherwise spent on gifts and donating it to a pooled charity that provides clean drinking water wells to places where contaminated water multiplies disease rates. Advent Conspiracy churches gave over $2.5 million dollars to clean water projects last year.
This amount seems small at first compared to the billions spent on Christmas gifts each year. But the impact is made if you read the weblogged stories and watch the online videos chronicling how many wells have been drilled from this money and how many people have been given access to something that we never think twice about in America — drinkable water.
A 2006 Gallup holiday survey indicated that weekly worshipers spent an average of $800 on Christmas gifts while those who never attend worship services spent an average of $853 on gifts.
In other words, Jesus makes about a $53 difference on Christmas spending.
Let that soak in for a minute. People who are attending church weekly spend only six percent less than those who never darken your doors. If that statistic holds up, then St. Nick trumps the baby Jesus in setting the values of Christmas. We need a serious re-examination of how we spend money, and according to this text, whose money we spend.
The underlying message of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) is stewardship: Our resources are given to us under the watchful eye of a master who someday will ask for an accounting.
Crown Financial Ministries suggests several purposes God has behind our use of his resources:
All of these can be seen within the ideas of this parable. But note how relational these stewardship concepts are as well. The master knows and is known by each of his servants, which is demonstrated by discussions on how his money was spent (vv. 20-27). But though there are three servants given three amounts, there are really only two responses to the master with respect to handling his money: loving him while fearing him, and fearing him without loving him.
When it comes to personal finances, we might ask if our spending patterns demonstrate that we both love and fear God, only fear him, or sadly, neither.
And as a link to the upcoming Christmas season, let’s begin to think today how God would want us to spend money this holiday. Which of these sounds more like talent-burying?
• Sitting alone in front of the computer after the kids fall asleep to purchase new electronic toys,
• or taking the children to the store to have them pick out a winter coat for another kid their age who’s in the county foster care system?
Here are some other activities to encourage the “Spend Less” and “Love All” themes suggested by the Advent Conspiracy campaign:
• Make Christmas wish lists and then break them into wants and needs.
• Create a Christmas gift budget that is 50 percent smaller than last year.
• Everyone in the family draw names and buys a gift for only one person.
• Put a $20 spending limit on each person in the family.
• Limit the number of gifts the kids receive to one from the parents and one from each set of grandparents, and tell them three gifts were good enough for Jesus.
• Fast from gifts altogether for just one year. Reflect on how it impacts you and have a family discussion about it the day after Christmas.
• Give namesake charitable gifts through Compassion International or Heifer Project.
• Have the family choose a cause or need toward which they want to redistribute Christmas spending.
• Do some research on clean drinking water as a world issue and discuss it as a family. Join the Advent Conspiracy in donating money toward well-building.
If we really believe that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” then let’s follow Jesus and not the empire.