Sunday, December 08, 2013


         Last week we began our Advent journey toward Christmas, along with thousands of other churches, by checking and making sure we knew where we were going—toward the celebration of God come in the flesh as Jesus Christ—toward worshiping fully.
         This week, as we go along on this holy road trip, it’s time to stop and make sure we’re not over-packed.
         Yes, over-packed.
         I think of my surprise when I picked my mom up when she came back to the United States from two weeks in Tanzania and Kenya—she had a small rolling bag and a backpack
—just to repeat for two week.
The bulkiest thing she carried was her camera. She definitely didn’t over-pack.
         But she did tell me about a fellow traveler she met while in Tanzania. This woman brought three giant trunks with her, which a guide had to lug around after her
—three trunks filled with clothing and make up.
Imagine that, gussying up to watch lions and track wildebeests!
         And, during Advent, this time leading up to Christmas, we as a society over-pack as well.
         We as a society could do with Spending Less.
Let us pray

         As we get going down this Advent Road toward Christmas, it’s worth noticing the tires on our car are looking a little low to the ground—and its not because we’ve got a flat. It’s because we’ve loaded the car up with too much stuff.
         One of the most treasured pieces of Christmas is the giving of presents. In doing this we remind ourselves of the precious gift God gave to the world, his son Jesus. We also remember the presents presented to Jesus by the three wise men, as well as St. Nicolas of Myra’s gift giving to children.
         But, somewhere along the way we seem to have went a little overboard… a lot overboard actually.
         Americans spend 450 billion dollars on Christmas. That’s 10 zeros, just to be clear.
         To put that number into perspective:
         NASA says with 450 billion dollars they could send a man to Mars.
         It’s the same amount of money as the US government spent on Medicare last year.
         It’s more than twice as much as American Individuals give to charity.
         It’s four times what it would cost to bring every American above the poverty line.

         We spend like crazy at Christmas—loading up this Advent Van to the point of absurdity.
         We spend like it’s our Job… and not just any job, but a deadly Seal Team Six kind of job. It’s like we’re training to become Shopping Assassins or Consumer Hit Men.
         … and if you think that’s an exaggeration it’s worth looking at our record.
         On this last Black Friday—9 days ago, the official start of Christmas Shopping season—there was one shopping related death and 15 injuries—including two fights that involved people using tasers on one another, as well as people shooting at each other over parking spaces.
         If you look at the last 8 Black Fridays there have been 7 deaths and 90 injuries.
         All that for good deals, and in order to get loved ones the perfect gift—all this, to chase after a perfect Christmas.
         But ultimately, this quest to buy more, is sinking the ship, squishing down our car to the point at which we’re endangering our Advent Journey. This chasing after Christmas through consumption is ultimately running the wrong way
—in fact running away from that star there ahead of us in the East.
         But it’s not enough to say “my goodness, buying things is bad.”
There is a deeper question—a deeper yearning—going on in a society that will kill for deals and wound for parking spots.
We’re trying to honor those we love, and we’re trying to make sure we’re worth something.
         And the good news today is that our worth doesn’t come from how much we spend.        

         Advent is, in some ways, a Winter version of Lent
—in fact in some countries, churches are decked out in Blue for both Seasons.
And just as Lent challenges us to give things up in order to focus on Easter, it is appropriate to be willing to do the same for Advent—to Spend Less at a time when our culture is telling us to
spend more!/spend more! /spend more!
         Spend less in order to lighten our load on this Advent Journey.
         Two quick examples to look at:
1.         Look at John the Baptist, this fuzzy wild man wearing simple and strangely austere clothing and eating food from the earth, not bought in the market.
         This John who humbles himself before Jesus for the sake of exulting him. He points to Jesus’ greatness by making himself less.
And yet, this man, who clearly humbles himself and lives without the trappings of wealth or things, is called the greatest by Jesus.
         Greatest, not because of the things he has, but because of the one to whom he points
—to make it plain, he is not great because of the presents he gives, but because of the present to the world Jesus Christ.

2.         Look at Mark’s Christmas story…
there isn’t’ one.
         No, there are a lot of things missing in Mark’s Gospel, including at times good grammar—because that’s not his focus, that’s not where he’s headed.
In his writing of his gospel he is headed to one thing and one thing only “The Good News of God, that Jesus the Son of God has come near.” Mark jettisons a lot, to focus on that one thing—the Son of God come near in the person of Jesus Christ.
         So too, it is worth re-focusing our Advent, from presents to the presence of Jesus that we are preparing to celebrate.
         It’s worth it, because that ultimate gift, that baby in the manger, that Savior for Us, is of ultimate worth.
         In summary, on this second stop of our Advent Journey we ought to assess what’s really important, because an excessive focus on gifts can make us lose sight of that fact that this amazing gift, Jesus Christ, has been given to us, and that we are of insurmountable worth to God and to one another,
not because of our possessions or our ability to get good deals or spend on friends and family,
but because we are Beloved Children of God. A+A

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