In the last blog, I challenged us to reclaim advent by suggesting four acts: Worship more, Spend Less, Give more, and Love all. The other thing I said was, “If I’m accused of anything, I’m accused of being too theoretical.” So this week, I want to give you a few suggestions. So, if you didn’t read last week’s article, please find a copy from last week for a point of reference. If not this is may seem baseless, but here we go:
Worship More: Last week I said “worshipping more” was less about going to church and more about being more intentional about the way we appropriate our everyday activities. It’s about turning everyday activities into living icons that remind us of what God may be doing in and through us. Here’s the equation: Take one or two daily activities, and simply put a layer of meaning over them, in order to remind you of why you should be thankful or pay attention to what God may be saying to you in the mundane. Here’s an example. Brother Lawerance took a mundane activity like mopping the kitchen floor, as a reminder of how God is cleaning his heart, and he used that time to invite the Holy Spirit’s cleansing presence into his day while praying about the sins he needed to be cleaned out. Here’s another: I love coffee. So much so, that I want to be involved in as much of the process as possible. I purchase my coffee beans whole and green. I roast my beans to the roast level I prefer (which is typically much lighter than you can buy them in the store), I grind them, and I brew them (never with an automated coffee maker). This season, I’m going to use this everyday practice of mine to remind myself of the intricate process God is using to make me who he wants me to be. For you, that may be mimicking Brother Lawerance. Maybe it is taking a daily walk to reflect on the creative energy of God. Maybe it is simply reminding your self to thank God for his beauty and diversity everytime you meet someone very different than you. Whatever it is, be intentional. Write it down, and do it.
Spend Less: This seems obvious. I don’t know about you, but if I just count on sheer thought-power and don’t come up with a rule before I Christmas shop, I’m probably not going to follow through. Meaning, if my only plan is to show up to the store without pre-thinking anything, in hopes to “spend less”, I’ll probably end up spending more. So, here’s a suggestion. We had some friends in Austin that influenced us to use a “rule of four” when it came to spending for Christmas. The rule goes like this. Purchase… (1) something they want, (2) something they need, (3) something to wear, and (4) something to read. We loved this. It helped us focus on what we buy, and at the same time helped our kids understand the point of Christmas isn’t getting more stuff. You may have a better pattern, but this “rule of four” really helped us out, and assisted us in the way celebrated Christmas.
Give more: I know this seems to be in opposition to spending less, but hang with me. Now that you have created your spending less pattern, it is time to figure out how to give more. Once we established the “rule of four” we took this to the next level and took a percentage of what we usually spent and directed it outward, as a family gift. Sometimes we used World Vision’s Gift Catalogue. Sometimes it was a family we knew was struggling. Other times it was a monetary gift to charities such as the Preemptive Love Coalition, Word Made Flesh, Urban Promise, or something local like Habitat for Humanity or CASA. Giving more does more than help others. It reminds us that the world is bigger than us. It is bigger than our wants. It is bigger than our problems. It is a really big place, and when we give more to those outside of our life, we are reminding ourselves that we get to play a part in this great big world of ours!
Love All: Let’s start big and then move to the small actions. The best way to love others is to give them the best and most precious part of who we are, our presence and time. Period. There are no exceptions. There was a survey done in the UK by hospice workers, about the top five regrets of the dying. One of those regrets was that they wished they hadn’t worked so much. They wish they would have lived at a lower level of means so they could have given more time to their friends and family. So, this season figures out ways to say “no” to the external demands, and give more of your time and presence to your family and friends. Now for the small stuff. For me, this is all about small, fun, secret acts of love. Here are a couple of ideas: Next time you drive through a Starbucks or Inn Keepers, pay for the car behind you (unless they’ve ordered a bunch of frappuccinos - it’s a principled issue); If you see a homeless person asking for money, just give them some! I know, I’ve heard the argument: “but we may be enabling them to buy alcohol or cigarettes.” Then make it easier, buy them a beer. Actually, don’t judge them. Maybe alcohol or cigarettes are what they need to get them through the night as they face sleeping in the cold. Next time you see a worn-out single mom trying to manage her kids at a restaurant, call her server over and pay for their meal, and ask the server not to tell her it was you. Next time your server is rude to you at a restaurant, tip him more than you normally would, assume the mood was caused by something you are unaware of, and they need some love to brighten them up.
Okay, there’s a small list, get creative, think of ways you can tangibly love all, and have a merry Christmas!