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You Are Free To Spend Less

I talked a bit about John the Baptizer this morning.  This guy gets my vote as the strangest guy in the New Testament.  Of course, that oddness is accentuated by the season in which he is remembered. 

Advent and Christmas are, in our culture, seasons focus on materialism and consumption.  Yet John is just the opposite.  He is the poster boy for austerity and simplicity.  He carries with him none of the trappings of wealth.  He wears no fine suits of clothing.  You’d never see him down at the capital buildings, surrounded by the trapping of power and political influenced.  He wore clothing spun from camel’s hair and a leather belt.  His beard dripped with honey and body pieces of the wild locust.  He lived his life outside of the places of power, commerce, and religion. 

See John out in the wilderness, living a life of simplicity, calling for repentance.  That’s a great word.  It means to turn around or to reorient your life.  “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” 

We remember John in our churches most often during the seasons of Advent and Christmas because we believe that “the kingdom of God” appeared in its fullest form in Jesus Christ the Son.  John’s call is to turn away from all those things in life we look toward to find meaning and significance.  And while turning away from all that stuff, we turn toward this God who is revealed to us in Jesus, the Son.

Isn’t that what we are longing for at Christmas?  We want some connection with the Divine life.  We long for something meaningful.  We long for something life-transforming, community enhancing, and world changing.  And that’s what God offers us at Christmas.  The heart desire of God is that we know that we are special, loved, and treasured by our Triune God.

That’s where our society steps in with all its lies and distractions.

Do you want to have a meaningful Christmas? 

A meaningful Christmas can be had at the shopping mall, where sweaters are on sale for 70% off.

A meaningful Christmas can be found at the electronics store, where the newest phone apps, hand-held computers, and new-fangled video-games are all on sale now.

A meaningful Christmas can be found at the liquor store.  You can buy your Christmas spirits here – all on sale (of course).

A meaningful Christmas!  Our culture tells us the lie that this can be found as we eat, drink, and make merry. 

John’s really moving us against the tide, isn’t he? 

The kingdom of God is at hand means “God is near!”  The birth of Jesus means “God is here!”  Advent and Christmas means that God thinks we are special.  God loves us.  God treasures us.  Turn away from the distractions and distortions of the shopping frenzy.  Reorient yourself toward the grace of God.  “Repent!”

We need this message because we have bought into the lie that meaning and value in life is found in our stuff.  Don’t believe me?

I saw a mother a few weeks back at a grocery store.  Her two children were in the shopping cart.  They were on the cereal aisle. 

“I want that cereal!” one child said.  “Yes, I want that cereal, too!” the other echoed.

“We can’t get that cereal,” the mother said.  “It’s not good for you and it is too expensive.”

“But we want that cereal,” the children protested.  The mother and children went back and forth for a few seconds till one of them said, “You don’t love us anymore!”

 The mother grabbed the cereal the children wanted and placed it in the cart.

Too often we’ve bought into the lie that love equals stuff.  We miss out on the truth that value, meaning, and purpose are found in the amazing great news that God has come to us in Christ to let us know that God Almighty – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – already considers us special, loved, and treasured.  Life comes to us not by what we buy and own, but by the grace God gives us freely in Jesus. 

“Repent, the Kingdom of God is near!”

“God became flesh and dwelt among us!”

“Unto you a Savior is born!”

At is root; all these statements mean that God thinks we are “special, loved, and treasured.”  STOP trying to find value in stuff, Advent tells us.  “You are already valued by God through Jesus the Son.”

When we really begin to believe this truth, it will revolutionize our lifestyle – not as a set of rules and regulations (like so much of our religion is about) – but from the inside where God’s amazing love begins to flourish and overflow into every other relationship.

Then we will stop spending to buy affection.

Then we will stop spending to feel better about ourselves.

Then we will stop spending in ways that hurt others (like buying products that are marketed by exploiting teen sexuality).

Then we will start spending relationally – as personal expressions of love, rather than at attempts to by love.  (Great resource on this at www.rethinkingchristmas.com)

We are celebrating the “Advent Conspiracy.”  Here’s what that means for us.  It means that we realize that the Incarnation of God in Jesus the Son means that we are loved, special, and treasured by God.  If we can get this in our mind, I’ll imagine that we’ll find lots of ways to celebrate Christmas while spending less.

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