Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a
mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen. –Collect for Fourth Sunday of Advent
It is almost a cliché to say that this time of year has become too commercial. Charlie Brown told us as much a number of years ago when he stood center stage of a most unusual Christmas pageant and shouted “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about???” Linus Van Pelt obliged and commenced one of the most memorable recitations of the Nativity Gospel.
Nevertheless, for all of our recognition that this time of the year has become something vastly different than was originally intended, we inevitably get sucked into the busy-ness and, yes, commercial superficiality of the Season.
With this in mind a few years back some pastors got together to ask how they could recapture for their congregations the deeper meaning of Christmas amid the glitz. They happened upon something that we as Episcopalians have known for generations, reclaim the season of Advent. So together they formed the Advent Conspiracy (adventconspiracy.org), promulgating four simple principles.
- Worship fully: “It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus… It is a season when we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It is a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath.”
- Spend less: the people at Advent Conspiracy point out that Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas gifts each year. What if we spend less this year, or are simpler in our gift giving? The hope is that spending less for Christmas, there will be more to share in kingdom work at Advent.
- Give more: the idea here is that we can give more of ourselves, rather than let our pocketbooks do our giving. Give our time to those we love. Use our skills to make the perfect gift.
- Love all: When the first four churches started Advent Conspiracy they advocated that the money saved by giving one less gift (how they suggested practicing “spend less”) they freed up huge sums to fund some relief projects in poverty stricken areas of the world. Of course, this also means being intentional in extended love to others closer to home as well.
The Advent Conspiracy website offers many resources for individuals, groups, and families, including activities and informational videos. I encourage you to peruse them. Perhaps you already have an Advent practice, such as lighting an Advent Wreath at home each week, or using our seasonal Prayer Booklets daily. The resources of the Advent Conspiracy are meant to supplement and deepen these practices.
More than ever our community and world need such a “conspiracy” of hope in our midst. Practicing a holy Advent is not merely about our own spiritual growth, it is about being an embodiment of hope in our time.
When the Charlie Browns in our midst shout out “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about???” people will point to us as a living reflection of the good news of Jesus’ birth and incarnation.
Grace and Peace,