If you read THIS POST or THIS ONE, you know that last year, Charlie and I became convicted that it was past time to seriously reconsider the way we celebrate Christmas. This video from Advent Conspiracy sums up our reasons and our hopes:
I found myself dreading the holidays as a stressful time full of endless extras on my to-do list with the baby Jesus lost somewhere between Target’s long lines and candy-cane wrapping paper. Lest you get ticked and stop reading right now, please understand. I’m not passing judgment on the way anyone else chooses to celebrate Christmas. Don’t get your stockings all twisted, y’all. I know many thrive on every single tradition and start singing carols in late September (ahem….my sister.)
But last year, I found myself overwhelmed, exhausted, and generally disillusioned, wondering…..what do I want Christmas to look like in my family? What traditions do we want to have and why? How can we disentangle ourselves from mass consumerism and focus more on those in need? On family? On God? I had to find some answers for my family. Thus, we started, ever so slowly, making some changes to…
1. Worship Fully
2. Spend Less
3. Give More
4. Love All
This is my account of our progress. I planned to write one mammoth post covering everything Christmas-related, but as the Internet has been down at my house for days and I’m working in tiny increments from random places, I figured it would be easier to chunk it up. Before the end of December, I hope to find time to share with you some of the ways we’re changing Christmas around here including ideas that you can implement in your family….just in case you’re also in the mood for a little Christmas conspiracy. (Cue Mission Impossible theme song now. Dun-dun-da-dah!)
First off, if you’re like I was and have no idea where to begin, I highly recommend checking out the AC site. Advent Conspiracy was started by five pastors in 2006 who decided to turn Christmas upside down by focusing on the above four principles. While AC is now an international movement producing promotional videos and educational materials, the organization accepts no money but encourages individuals to “Give More” in whatever ways they choose.
However, I love that the first order of business is to Worship Fully. The site says:
Christmas marks the moment where God’s promise was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that deserves our full attention and praise. We put Worship Fully as AC’s first tenet because we believe the level of our involvement at Christmas is based entirely on how much we are celebrating Christ’s birth. He deserves celebration; one that is creative, loud and directs every heart His way.
I think of sitting on the pew with my parents as a child at the Enchanted Tree service at our church. I watched candlelight flow softly down the rows of worshippers to illuminate lips singing “Silent Night.” I remember my mother passing us dollar bills to put in our brightly-colored envelopes; I remember holding my father’s hand as we walked down the aisle to decorate the barren tree with gifts of love.
Likewise, I remember the warm chills flowing up my spine as Walter Burns sang out the first notes of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” the event that to this day, remains the moment that Christmas truly begins for me.
As a child, certainly I focused on the tinsel and trappings, but it was also easier to embrace the real magic of communing with God. Sometimes, with the adult responsibilities of purchasing, planning, preparing, and dear God, trying to shove a chunky, cranky baby into Christmas tights, the focus on worshipping fully is, well…..muted.
This year, I prayed that God would open our hearts and provide opportunities for meaningful, peace-filled, healing worship. What’s that about “Ask, and ye shall receive” again?
We’re only 11 days into the month, and already, we’ve had the privilege to attend a multitude of authentic, spirited and out-of-the-box worship experiences. In a small chapel, voices joined guitars and a flute in easy harmonies to remind me to “Behold the Lamb of God” for He is beautiful. In the basement of an Irish pub, louder voices joined in carols and raised nearly $5,000 to build a well for an impoverished community, and there was beauty there too.
And thus, I find my heart filled and excited about the season to come. Thankful that I am free to Worship Fully. Worship, live, breathe, give, laugh, celebrate, conspire. We’re not there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.
What role does worship play in your Christmas celebrations?