This commercial says SO much about where our culture is during Christmas. Take 30 seconds to watch it and be amazed. The irony in the tagline is comical: “In a time where it is easy to go overboard, Acura invites you to be smarter and over-save.” Yes, that’s right, over-save by buying a vehicle with an MSRP of $42,930 – $54,455.
There seems to be two different Christmas stories fighting for our attention. One is the story of Jesus birth, where God became human and entered our mess to redeem and restore what was broken by sin. This story is called “the Gospel” because it is such good news. The other story often distracts from the true story – the one where people are rushing around from shopping mall to shopping mall, full of tension and anxiety about material things. Do I have the right gifts? Can I buy enough gifts? What can we get Grandpa? Maybe Christmas is more about chaos and mass consumerism and less about Jesus entering our world? Think about the chaos of “black Friday.” Each year, the day after Thanksgiving, people wake up at 3am to wait in line outside of stores and shopping malls to get the best deals on stuff so they can give it to people to communicate love. This is a love story, but it is a love story about a different god, one of stuff. The truth is: black Friday is a worship event…but is it the right worship event? “Advent” is the word the church uses to refer to the season of Christmas, which comes from a Latin word (adventus [Greek: parousia]) which means “coming.” It is a celebration of the coming of Christ. The event of Jesus coming to earth changed the world, and it can change it still. What Echo is talking about this season is “simplifying” Christmas – not to take the fun away, but to make sure what matters most gets the most attention.
Simple = clear.
Simple ≠ excess.
Simple ≠ stress.
Simple ≠ clutter.
This is about being intentional, doing Christmas on purpose. This Christmas, what we want to do at DCC and in Echo is enter the true Christmas story.
The birth of Jesus is an event of cataclysmic scale that should be celebrated with worship and awe, yet we have found billions of ways to make Christmas about us. Why does no one ask” “what are you giving this year?” instead of “What are you asking for?” or “What are you getting?” Why do we make lists of what we want long before the holiday while we wait to the last minute to find gifts for others? The answer is that Christmas is all about ME. This is a dangerous reality for teens, because they naturally occupy the center of the universe already. The danger is that they miss a truth of vital importance: Jesus has come into the world, and His coming demands a worshipful response!
What story does your family’s celebration tell about Christmas? I don’t mean something tacky, like t-shirt slogans or street corner preaching. I do think that our worship should tell the story of the coming of Christ. By that I mean that our heart and our attitude should be focused on Jesus and not on the nonsense of our culture. I am not talking about the “Christmas Spirit” (or whatever that phrase means). I am talking about returning our eyes, our hearts, and our attention to the coming of Jesus.
How do we do this? I know what you are thinking: I saw that Christmas movie. We all have. We all know what the next 30 days will be about. We will see about a dozen movies and hear the same 25 songs over and over again. There is nothing unexpected about the message either. It is the same every year: “Don’t be a Scrooge or a Grinch. Believe in Santa, or all the reindeer will die. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is for singing loud for all to hear. If you get a BB gun for Christmas, you will shoot your eye out. Don’t be bad or ninjas will storm the North Pole and destroy all the toys…” What I think God is looking for is the sense of wonder and gratitude.
So this season, celebrate. Have fun. Give gifts. But celebrate for the right reasons and give gifts that mean something, not just some thing. Here are some ideas:
*Serve Together as a family. We just did this with our 3 year old, so it is possible for you too!
*Get an Advent Calendar or search online for a list of readings from scripture that follow an advent calendar. Commit to doing this for 8 minutes every night. Even better – make one with your family that you can use for years to come.
*Give your time instead of more stuff. Do something fun together instead of adding another video game to the cabinet.
*Sit down and read the story of the first Christmas from Matthew or Luke’s Gospel as a family. Even if it seems cheesy and your teens act resistant, they might secretly love it. Maybe sneak it in before dinner.
*Give a gift that will bring your family closer, like a game you can all play together. (My personal suggestion is Settlers of Catan!)
*Choose which parties to attend and which activities to do on purpose. Limit the amount of clutter on the calendar for the next month.