I’ve seen ‘signs’ of it already.
It’s only the beginning of November and already we’re seeing the tinsel go up. Retail places are blasting totally irrelevant songs about dreaming of a white Christmas, and telling us to start planning our spending (be that money or time).
If you were happily ignoring these signs – forgive me for pointing them out, but stay with me….
All of the above ‘signs’ of Christmas make me cringe at little bit more every year. The consumer-filled, plastic-stuffed, sugary, glittery Christmas Tune we're meant to dance to makes me want to avoid Christmas for as long as possible!
But I actually love what Christmas is really about: a God who breaks into our world, who ‘moves into the neighbourhood,’ who comes as a baby in human skin and in doing so begins a world-changing process of reconciliation that no-one could have dreamed of. Truly the best gift of all!
The Church has a different way of pointing to the ‘signs’ of this Great Gift: Advent. It's part of our church calendar that actually helps us build the anticipation and expectation of waiting for the coming Messiah. Some churches do this with candles in a wreath (that’s what I grew up with). Others have extra services, and (sadly) others don’t really do much different in Advent at all. But what I’ve realised this year is that Advent doesn’t have to be something that I hope my church does for me; I can find ways to participate in this advent season in my own life too.
So the question that's facing me in this season is: How can I step into the church’s way of Christmas preparation rather than the culture’s way of preparation?
This question was part inspired by a blog I read last week about life-giving tips for the Christmas build-up. They talk of things like: Reflect. Give. Simplify.
One thing I’m looking forward to using to help me reflect and prepare are the Advent Art Cards produced by the Anglican Church for the Decade of Mission. Artists from around Aotearoa and the Pacific have created art that responds to the Advent texts to stimulate your missional thinking.
Which leads me to question number two: How do I respond missionally to Christmas? What’s one small thing I can do?
This question sounds like a tough one, but in actual fact I’ve discovered it’s not that complicated. As I examine what God has given me, (who I am, passions, skills, people etc), I found a surprising idea that was obvious:
What do I care about? Ethical, Slave-free sustainable living (read my other blogs on here and it’s obvious). Christmas shopping is hardly ever that!
What do I like to do? To be creative and make things.
So this year, my sister and I (always good to have an ally in these things) are hosting an Ethical Christmas Crafternoon. An opportunity to bring a bunch of people together to encourage making alternative Christmas gifts and decorations which is fun for us, good for the environment and isn't exploiting other people for our own Christmas cheer. From recycled and raw materials we’ll be making our own wrapping paper, Christmas wreaths, Christmas crackers, decorations, and even might try making wooden manger scenes! We hope this will inspire others to consider their consumer choices this Christmas whilst giving them opportunity to find alternative ideas.
Other ideas that I’ve done in previous years for advent include: helping out at a community Christmas Lunch, inviting friends to a church service around Christmas time, organise to send the Shoebox Christmas gifts with friends/church, make a countdown Christmas Chain (we did this growing up as kids!), or find a good advent calendar like this one made by Kiwis with NZ-contextual images of the Christmas Story.
Whatever it might be, the church has a Gift to offer this world, and I hope we can all find a meaningful way of living that Truth this Advent season.
How can I step into the church’s way of Christmas preparation rather than the culture’s way of preparation?
What’s God given me passion for that might be one small thing I can do to respond missionally in this Christmas season?
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