Tell a Better Story – Worship Fully

Can Christ Still Change the World?

Luke 1:39-44
Luke 2:8-20

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What is the Advent Conspiracy?

Succinctly, the Advent Conspiracy is just a group of churches who are working together (conspiring) to experience Christ’s birth and to witness to and participate in that event’s power in the world.  For some, it is a reaction to the rampant consumerism of our culture.  For others, it is an attempt to reclaim that sense of wonder and awe we used to feel at the power of God’s love for us.  And for others, it might simply be a puzzling anomaly that doesn’t feel relevant or important.  For us here today and in this Advent season, it is an invitation to speak to Christmas and why it matter.  And it is an invitation to get creative in how we worship and celebrate Christ’s birth.  We will cover 4 topics: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.  I hope you can come to the Bible study before worship.  If any of you would prefer to do this Bible Study during the week, let me know and we will do a Wednesday morning.

Advent – Preparation, dawning, mini-Lent – a time of repentance and preparation when we consider the ways in which we have not lived out the values of the Christ’s Kingdom in the present.  Purple is a traditional color, so is Blue (Sarum Blue) which ties to wonder, devotion, and expectation.  “See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43:19

*Note to the online reader: We have new banners in our church this year made by some of the members and they’re blue! Hence, the brief color explanation.  Both blue and purple are considered colors of royalty and in Europe, it simply depended on what area you were in (and what plants/berries were available) as to whether purple or blue were used.*

Conspiracy – A group of people agreeing to do something different … for a purpose.  That something is counter to the prevailing status quo.  Christmas has been hijacked, you can tell because it starts earlier and earlier each year.

A Counter-Cultural Christmas

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile – why Christmas starts earlier each year.  I see 2 reasons:

  1. It’s good business.  Some companies make more than 50 % of      their yearly sales on Christmas sales so it makes sense to start it      earlier and earlier.  Companies benefit from us feeling like we need to prepare and but gifts for all our friends and familes.  This is the cynical reason on my list.
  2. The second reason runs deeper.  There’s a reason that so many people put up lights and buy presents for loved ones (even if they      never attend church), and that is because people are hungry for something more.  Even if they don’t believe in Christ, they are hungry for the hope and the promise of God’s love that is present in Christ.  People need Christmas, indeed Christ, and the lessons of kindness and compassion that flow out of Christ’s life and message.

“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”
Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

The story of advertisers and consumer culture is that acquiring things and purchasing gifts prove your love and make you happy.  You and I know that depending on things and material goods for happiness will only leave us feeling empty.  How do we begin to counter that message and provide people with the substance and sustenance that is found in Christ’s love?

great story

Tell a Better Story: Worship Fully

We can begin by doing one thing: stop complaining about the secularization of Christmas.  Yes, Christmas has been hijacked.  But do not get upset with a store clerk for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”[1]  The Holiday season stretches from Thanksgiving to New Years and includes multiple religious holidays, not just ours.  More to the point, it is not the job of sales clerks or companies to tell the story of Christ’s birth.  That is the church’s responsibility and maybe, we need to tell a better story than the one advertised in the commercials this time of year.

We do not need to be hostile or stand in judgment of the culture around us: I’ll still be giving my children presents and watching Hallmark movies.  But I’ll also be trying my best to live with Christ in my heart as I decide which gift to give, and I’ll be looking to Scripture for guidance and meaning – not to the gifts I do/do not receive.

“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.”

Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

What a joy and a privilege we have been given to tell once more the story of Christ’s birth, to think upon the central question: Why did Christ come into the world?  And the answer is as simple as it is beautiful and as complex as it is real.  Hope, Peace, Joy, Faith Love.  Truly, Christ came into the world to change it, to redeem it and restore the world that was created for better things than greed or envy or jealousy.  Christ came into the world to physically BE God’s love in action – healing, teaching, serving.  Christ came into the world to show us how to live.

I wondered if we might be willing to re-commit ourselves to living as Christ throughout this season of Advent, remembering that now, we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”
Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

What story are we living?

A college professor stood before his class one day with a large jar.  He filled the jar with golf balls and asked his students if it was full.  They said, yes.  Then he poured pebbles into the jar which filled in the spaces around the golf balls, and again he asked the students if the jar was full.  They said, yes.  Now, it was full.  So he poured sand into the jar which then slid into the empty spaces around the pebbles and the golf balls.  He asked again if the jar was full.  The student said yes, indeed, it is surely full.  The professor then asked, “What do we learn from this experiment?”  One confident, funny student responded, “That no matter how busy we are, we can always fit in a little more?”  The professor smiled and said, “No.  The lesson of this jar is that you must begin with the big things, and then the little things fill in the holes.”

daniel maher new_green_bottoms

More than one person has told me (recently) that they struggle to feel the same sense of wonder and meaning at Christmas that they used to feel.  As we worship together this season, let’s reflect on what fills our jars.  As individual people of faith, as a church community, as a body of Christ worshipping God, what are the big things that need to be there so that we find meaning and wonder in our time together?

God of Advent, tell us your story once more.  Speak to us of humble beginnings, of angels trumpeting and shepherds bowing low.  Help us to grasp the impact of that small event and how it has changed the world, how it is still changing the world.  May your birth changes us again, and may we be shepherds glorifying your name and shouting of your blessings everywhere we go.  Amen

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