It’s beginning to look a lot like…
…a conspiracy! As soon as I saw the Halloween decorations lining the store shelves I knew what was next: Christmas. Does it seem like Christmas seasonal supplies are getting highlighted earlier each year in the stores? Consumerism does a great job of anticipating the Christian calendar. However, movements like the Advent Conspiracy can help turn the tables on consumerism by refocusing on Christmas giving traditions rooted in helping the poor (i.e. St. Nicholas). To honor that history, Because International has two great Christmas opportunities to partner with us using products to alleviate poverty by meeting immediate needs:
If you, your church, or organization are already planning on or would like to begin participating in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), why not add in The Shoe That Grows to your boxes?
You will be supplying kids around the world with durable, long lasting footwear that will help keep their feet safe. Many churches already have seen this as a great way to partner with Because, involve their whole congregation, and practice compassion globally to make a big difference. This year we have added smaller sizes to match OCC’s request for younger kid’s shoes. Here’s how to order your OCC shoes today.
Back to those empty Christmas shelves in the store...
Which came first the church calendar or consumerism? Regardless, Christmas marketing is so well established in my psyche that I had to satisfy my curiosity by looking for Christmas shelves that undoubtedly were being set-up. I found them.
They were still empty. Two aisles of empty shelves awaiting boughs and holly decor. Somehow getting to the Christmas shelves before the store-stockers had felt like a victory. The little things, you know?
I really enjoy the Christmas/Advent season. My perception of time is even affected. Not just the ebb and flow of day and night, but my awareness of passing time. Sometimes it speeds up with all the hustle and bustle of church programs and events. Other times I sense this deep desire to slow down and take in the wonder of the season at a more intentional pace of presence. Gatherings with family and being together with those we care so deeply for as we share stories of hope, love, joy, and peace has a way of sinking deep into our memory from each Christmas season.
The subversiveness of the Christmas story probably has a degree of impact on my fondness for the season. For instance: a teenager giving birth to a baby who’s paternal lineage is in question. Travelers from afar seeking out this baby as they followed signs in the night sky for YEARS and sneaking off before the authorities could find out. Gifts with cryptic meanings foreshadowing royalty, religious leadership, and rigor mortis. Wow. There’s so much to unpack in the way God chose to enter life among humanity in order to save us and all creation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. Yeah. Christmas is a great season.
As a youth worker, I have found movements like the Advent Conspiracy a very appealing series to teach during the Christmas season. Why? Well there is the anti-consumerism invitation emphasizing the giving of gifts significant with meaning rather than worth being derived from the price tag. There is the unsettling practice of actually turning the Christmas tree upside down as a visual symbol of rebelling against the chains of consumerist tendency and instead giving from what we have to help others. So many good low-key but confrontational possibilities for Christ-centered conversation.
As a youth ministry, we harnessed the divergent thinking of the Advent Conspiracy to raise funds for a local cause we partnered with in practical compassion, like the Rescue Mission or a refugee resettlement organization. It may be a family shelter, food bank, or other non-profit partnership ministry that is impacting not just material, but spiritual, emotional, and long term development of lives in our community.
In a season where we celebrate both secularly and sacredly the God of the universe giving himself through becoming a part of his creation, we often somehow manage to make it about consumerism and getting or giving material gifts. The real gifts are the intangibles of measuring hope, practicing love, deepening joy, and being a peacemaker (Watch for Church Suite Podcast Session 2 with Steve Corbett for more on this and defining the work of development as divergent and convergent thinking followed by action steps). That’s an advent conspiracy and the heart of the Christmas story.
If you are a youth worker reading this and the idea of the Advent Conspiracy resonates with your heart for the Lord and your students here’s an idea: use our ShoeBox youth ministry series and fundraising platform to partner with a local cause, empower your student leaders, and be an example of practical compassion to your church and community.
Whether you add The Shoe That Grows to your Operation Christmas Child boxes or participate in the Advent Conspiracy by unpacking the ShoeBox series, celebrate Christmas (14 weeks away!) with your family, youth group, and church this year by giving in a posture of anti-consumerism and poverty alleviation!
Photo by Kira auf der Heide