Conspire to take back the holidays

Do you like a good conspiracy? Ever wonder what it would be like to join one? Here’s your invitation …

The Advent Conspiracy is underway. You can renew Christmas by undermining what undermines Christmas. It’s a spiritual “Occupy Christmas” movement.

Many Christians order their days by observing a calendar of worship that owes more to the life of Christ than to the Roman moon. The year begins four Sundays before Christmas with Advent, carries through the seasons of Christmas, Epiphany and Lent during the winter and early spring, reaches a high point at Easter through Pentecost, and then coasts through Ordinary Time all summer and fall until starting over again at Advent.

Listen to editor Keri Mitchell’s interview with the Rev. George Mason explaining why his church has joined the Advent Conspiracy movement, and how congregants are putting its tenets into practice. Read more about the interview here.

Ordinarily, Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas during which Christians make themselves ready again to welcome God’s surprising and transforming presence in their lives through the coming of Christ. The gift of Christ’s presence has called for the gifts of presents in response. Like the magi from the East who came bearing gifts for the Christ child, we give gifts to one another as signs of love and gratitude.

But somewhere along the way, merchants hijacked this tradition, turning it into retail heaven, and thereby making wholesale changes to the meaning.

The Advent Conspiracy wants to bring back the spiritual simplicity of Christmas without any Scrooge-like sneering. Over the four weeks leading up to Dec. 25, you may join others in this subversive act of insurrection. Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All: These four movements build upon one another and lead to a more glorious experience at the manger.

Worship Fully. If you make worship your first priority, you are putting God first. Worship focuses our heart’s affection and our mind’s attention on the God who is alone worthy of it. Going to church (and if you are not a Christian, adapt here at will) inoculates you against the commercial allure of the mall. It fills you up spiritually so that you have no need and no room to add unfulfilling idols of material things to your life.

Spend Less. I know this sounds un-American right now, what with a fragile economy that needs you to heed the siren call to spend as if it’s your patriotic duty. It’s not. My guess is that you will spend enough, even if you join this conspiracy. But spend less: one less unneeded sweater, one less soon-to-be forgotten Best Buy gift card, one less coffee mug to go with a collection of past Starbucks Christmases.

Give More. Saving by spending less may be a good place to stop ordinarily, but Christmas is not Ordinary Time — it is a season for giving. Now you have more to give elsewhere. Where? To a mission enterprise locally or around the world that will change the lives of needy people more than that one less gift given to loved ones. But at the same time, give something more and different and better to loved ones. Make a gift. Give yourself in some way: time promised, a service rendered, the present of presence.

Love All. Here’s the big one. When you get this far, you might be feeling good about yourself. But the gift of the Christ child was God’s message of love for all. God didn’t choose favorites; God favored all. So whom do you need to love that hasn’t yet fallen under your category of “all”? Could be a family member who is hard to love. Could be a coworker or immigrant or politician or anyone else who is “other” to you. When you make a move toward that person or those persons this Advent, you conspire to usurp hatred and prejudice in the name of God’s love.

Conspiracy theories are usually nonsense. This one makes good sense.

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