The story of the first Christmas is of a season that brought hope and joy to those on the margins of our world. Sadly, this is often not the case with the Christmas season of today. Even for those of us in prosperous Ireland, what was once a time to celebrate the birth of a Saviour has somehow turned into a season dominated by stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. When it’s all over, many of us are left with little but unwanted presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and the empty feeling that whatever this great season is supposed to be about, we didn’t experience it!
What if Christmas could be different to all of this?
What if Christmas could once again become a life-changing and world-changing event? Well, that’s what the Advent Conspiracy is all about. The Advent Conspiracy is a movement calling us to rediscover the message of Jesus and rediscover true worship in the way we celebrate Christmas. It was started in 2006 by a few pastors who decided to encourage their churches to live out the revolutionary truth about Christmas by Worshiping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More and Loving All. The response was overwhelming and the Conspiracy was born. Since 2009 MCC has been a co-conspirator.
The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple but profound…
First and foremost it is about Jesus. It is in the miracle of his birth and what it signifies that the true wonder of Christmas is found. For this reason, at least for those of us who are his followers, Advent is a time when we are called to put down our burdens and lift up our voices in worship. The God of the universe has come among us to love and rescue us. This is the season where we rejoice that compassion wins, peace reigns, and our king can be celebrated with every breath. So as we enter the story of Advent we are invited to come to this season with an overwhelming passion to worship our redeeming God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the absolute fullest.
Secondly, it’s about spending less. Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: Europe spends an average of €115 billion per year on Christmas. In Europe and America the total is €450 billion – every year. That’s an incredible amount of money! And, when we think about the needs in our world, what an incredible difference even some of that money could make. Let’s talk water. Every year 1.8 million children die
because of water born illness and disease – EVERY YEAR. Yet it is estimated that for just €9 billion every child in our world could have clean water for life. Think about that. How often have we spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have we received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? Well, for just €9 not spent on one of those gifts, a child in the developing world could have clean water for the whole of their lives. Indeed, if just 2% of Christmas spending were redirected to the world’s poor the problem of clean water would be totally solved for ever! Wouldn’t that seem like a good thing to be about at Christmas? If those if us in MCC did this repeatedly and if we were to give even close to 50% of our usual Christmas budget to those in need more than 2000 people could have clean water for life.
The Advent Conspiracy is not about raising money for charity. God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So our celebration should be a time to love our friends and family in ways that are fun and memorable. This again, is something we need to rediscover. Our time is one of our most precious commodities. Time to be a gift or make a gift not just buy one; Time to write your mam or dad a letter to tell them thanks for all their sacrifice and love; Time to take your kids ice-skating or on a crazy winter walk on the beach; Time to bake really good cookies and sing Christmas carols really badly; Time to make your love visible and audible through the giving of yourself. Isn’t every one of these ideas much better than getting novelty slippers, rainbow socks and yet more deodorant?
When Jesus loved, he showed us how to love. He gave himself unreservedly to his Father, his family and friends. But Jesus also spent himself on the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. By changing the way we go about celebrating Christmas we have the opportunity to join him in such love, to join in sharing our time and our resources with those who need them the most. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches shared this simple concept with their members. The result was a change in their Christmases and a gift of almost half a million euros to aid those in need. Imagine if churches all over the world did the same! So this Christmas, why not conspire to return Christmas to what it once was? From Sun 12th Dec we will be making gift envelopes available to everyone who wants to participate and on the 19th and on Christmas Day we will collect our gift envelopes together at our service. Every cent they contain will go to the provision of clean water through projects run by major development agencies.
So each year at MCC we try to proclaim together that Christmas can still change the world!