It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is one week away and three days after that the Season of Advent begins marking the days towards Christmas. Maybe more than in years past I am looking forward to the Holidays. I’m particularly excited for our Advent time together at Centenary because we are going to participate in the Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World. It’s not a new idea for many but it is for our church.
How would you like to shed part of the Holiday stress by simplifying the gift giving and share more of yourself with those you love? What if your family decided together to approach things a little differently and instead of focusing on wish lists and finding the perfect gift, you thought of fun things to do together or ways you could serve together or just spend more non-stressful time together? One really cool example from the book is an adult son gave his father a bag of coffee. The stipulation was he could only drink the coffee when the two were together so it created space for the two to spend time togehter. A beautiful, thoughtful, relational gift.
I hope you will buy the Advent Conspiracy book and read as the Holidays approach and share with your family. One of our families brought the book home and their 9-year-old son read half of it and announced to his family that he was not going to make a Chrismtas list this year and instead wanted to do something for a clean water initative in a third world country. How cool is that?
And most importantly, what if you put some of that energy back into the original intention of the season, to worship and give thanks to God for the amazing gift of His Son, Jesus Christ? To truly worship with your full heart and attention the birth of Jesus. I can’t wait for my heart to begin to prepare with the songs of Advent and the lighting of the Advent Wreathe. I can’t wait for my soul to soar when the Christmas music starts and the familiar Scripture stories are told. I can’t wait to bring my Angel tree gifts and start serving at the Overflow Check-In to show love to others. I can’t wait.
Another piece of our Advent season I am excited about is our Christmas Eve offering. As you will see with the Advent Conspiracy one encouragement is that families choose to give part of what they might have spent on unwanted or unneeded gifts to a charity or service project. We spent some time trying to figure out what would be the best option for us to designate at Centenary and there was much discussion on the many possibilities. We could not choose just one local option so folks will have the chance the give to Love Came Down at Christmas giving if you prefer (more info available on our website). But the Christmas Eve Offering is going to be designated to go to Haiti Outreach Mininsty this year. (Their mission is “Sharing the Gospel with the people of Haiti through evangelism, education and medical care.” Not only do we have an ongoing relationship with the ministry (church/school/medical clinic) here where we send mission teams two times a year, but they have also suffered the unexpected set back of damage from Hurricane Matthew this fall. It felt like for this year, this was the best designation for us to share some Christmas love with some of Jesus’ very “least of these”. Here are just a few ways that our offering will make a difference:
$3.66 – covers the cost of one individual visit to the clinic, which serves about 30,000 people/year
$30 – sponsors a primary school student for one month (includes teacher salaries, uniforms, books & school supplies, hot lunch, and a health exam for primary students)
$50 – sponsors a secondary school student for one month
$75 – sponsors a college student for one month
$10 – sponsors a vocational training student for one month
$2,500 – covers the cost of medicine and supplies for the Cite Soleil clinic (the only healthcare available in Cite Soleil, one of the biggest slums in the Northern Hemisphere) for one month
$9,150 – covers the entire cost of running the Cite Soleil medical clinic for one month
$5,000 – supplies the school and community with clean, potable water for one year
$1200 – covers the cost of installing air conditioning in a new computer lab for students
If you want to know more about the Cite Soleil clinic then check this out.: https://vimeo.com/178765280. If you want to know more about Haiti Outreach Mininstry than here is their website: HaitiOM.org.
Whether children save pennies, or families budget a special offering or people show up for worship Christmas Eve and give as they feel moved, we know that this will be an opportunity for those of us who have so much to share with some of our brothers and sisters that have so little. So maybe as you join us on the Advent Conspiracy you will be inspired to invite others to participate as well. If you are not part of Centenary United Methodist Church than I hope you will have a cause that means something to you that your family can support in lieu of some of the excessive gift giving that we can get caught up in.
And I pray for all of us that instead of exhaustion from a too busy schedule and a long “to do” list that we can find time and space to worship God fully and to share some extra love with others.
Grace and Peace,