Being Present This Christmas
Christmas eve at our home was about dinner and then an evening of opening gifts. As young kids, we looked forward to it with great anticipation. We usually had dinner at the Gaddie’s house, so mom and dad would let us open one gift before we went to dinner, and then the rest when we got home–usually late at night.
I remember some of my favorite gifts. Mrs. Beasley, a talking doll. Shrinking Violet, another talking doll. Mighty Mike, a truck that could do anything. And when I got older, a pair of my favorite “Seafarer” jeans.
I think back about those holidays and I remember the tree and opening gifts and the feeling of anticipation. They were good memories. Time with family. Time with family friends.
But the focus was on the gifts and the opening of gifts. At times, it was embarrassing. So many gifts piled under the tree. We joined in the consumerism that drives Christmas in America.
Guilty as charged.
But, four years ago, that changed for me. Our Pastor and a few other pastors from around the United States introduced a radical idea: Advent Conspiracy. It was exactly what I needed–affirmation that I could get off the treadmill of consumerism and celebrate Christmas in a way that honors Christ.
I’m so grateful.
Advent Conspiracy is about reclaiming Christmas for Christ — worshiping fully, spending less, giving more [time], and loving all during the season of advent. Advent Conspiracy asks us to be present this holiday–present in the lives of those we know and love. To give of ourselves by making gifts or just spending time with those we love. To avoid racking up credit card charges for gifts out of a feeling of obligation. Instead, to focus on Christ and his love for the world. To worship Him, and in doing so, to love the world–to love the least of these.
Advent Conspiracy has changed Christmas for our family. We buy no gifts. In fact, after Thanksgiving, the only shopping I do is for groceries and household items. The stress of the traffic and crowds, the pressure to find the perfect gift for each person, is gone.
Instead, we pack up our car and spend three days together as a family at the beach. While it is still a “gift” to take a short trip, it is a gift of time together. This is our fourth year. And, I can’t tell you how it feels to have our now young adult children “anticipate” Christmas. Beginning in July, the kids start asking about the trip. And, from September on, we hear over and over how much they are looking forward to the trip.
It isn’t fancy or eventful, after all, it rains at the Oregon Coast all winter. So, we’re pretty much stuck indoors as a family for three days. Together, we cook, read books, build puzzles, play games, sit by the fire and look out on God’s creation–and even brave walking on the beach in the wind and rain. And, we also catch up on each others lives. We spend time being present–living in the moment. Laughing, talking, loving.
Advent Conspiracy–our celebration of Christ’s birth–is more than that, too. Advent becomes a season of Worship because we don’t have to think about buying gifts or spending money. And, instead of giving what might be meaningless or trivial gifts, we give to local and international charities–to the least of these. To those who Christ asks us to love as He loved.
God’s gift to us was a relationship with Christ–a relationship rooted in love. I’m praying that we celebrate Christ’s birth in a way that reflects His love. I’m praying for a season of being present in the lives of others.
May your season be so blessed.
Here is the Advent Conspiracy Video. I hope you enjoy it!