The Advent Conspiracy

christmas presentsHalloween hadn’t even arrived when I received my first “Countdown to Black Friday” notice from Amazon. Since I hide my darker side from public view fairly well, you might think I’m a pretty nice person, but I confess to a flood of peeved musings, none of which involved anything that would put my salvation in jeopardy, but might prompt the Spirit to jab me with a sharp conviction stick. It’s not so much the “leaving Jesus out of his own party” thing. I don’t like that the public substitutes the manger with a sleigh, but since I have no problem remembering whose birthday it is and I since don’t expect people who claim no allegiance to him to bake him a cake or give him presents, I can deal with it. It’s the self-indulgent and rampant waste of time and money when there are people in the world who need a meal more than I need another paperweight with Santa on it, to which I seriously object.

What really irks me are the retailers and economists who try to sell it as my moral imperative  to drag our economy out of its doldrums by buying bigger and better stuff for all my relatives and shirt tail cousins who I’ve never met. The ones I have met, it’s implied, would like me more if I sent them another coaster set, unless, that is, they dislike me all the more for how my generous gift adds to their guilt for not having reciprocated in kind.

Anyway, back to my rant about the economy. I’m bone tired of hearing that it’s my civic duty to shop and spend, whether during the holidays or not, while people die around the world for lack of clean water, for treatable diseases, or at the hand of insanely greed-driven traffickers taking advantage of the severely impoverished. Ironically, who knows the percentage of the goods we consumers buy at Christmastime at cheap prices, which are produced by people in inhumane working conditions! By the way, does the word “consumer” bother anyone else but me?

OK, it’s obvious I have some serious therapy needs about the holidays in general, but on a less neurotic level, I do feel strongly about how generous we can be at Christmastime with our relatively well-off friends and family and be so avaricious when it comes to the truly needy of the world.

There are a burgeoning number of people who are saying, “Enough! We’ve had enough of the consumerist Christmas! We refuse to do any more comfort spending (which is in the same family of neuroses as “comfort eating”). And since we have more than enough global neighbors who live in daily scarcity, we prefer to divert to them whatever time and resource we would otherwise spend on ourselves.”

If you know me you know that I seldom, if ever, promote a program, but since this isn’t a program, but a collaboration of likeminded people hoping and acting for Christmas to change the world again, I’m gong to risk it and recommend the Advent Conspiracy.

Its originators founded the movement on four tenets: Worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. Simply put: Put Jesus first and be generous with those who need it most. It a collaboration of hundreds of churches who offer creative compassionate alternatives (i.e. digging wells in Africa for clean water) to a consumer-based Christmas.

Claire Howard, who leads a team of urban missionaries for the poor in San Francisco called the “Outer Circle”  tag them on FB first told me about this collective of generous-minded Christians. As a side note, as university students back in the 70s, Claire’s parents decided that instead of forging financially successful careers they would spend the rest of their lives at or below the poverty level in order to live more simply and fully, be able to give more to the poor, and leave a smaller global footprint. Evidently, Claire’s soul wasn’t too damaged by such a simple upbringing.

Anyway, even if you can’t go cold turkey this year, detoxing at Shoppers’ Anonymous meetings I hope you’ll consider living more generously in the world the other 364 days of the year. I don’t mean to pass on any consumer’s condemnation. I just thought we could all use a reminder of what Jesus actually came here to do – peach the gospel to the poor. Please, at least glance at the Advent Conspiracy and consider joining the revolution of generous Jesus followers.

Both poverty and consumerism dehumanize. Through his Church Jesus can answer both and make us human again.

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