Friday, November 27, 2009

black friday -- now it begins

One hour and one minute ago, it started.

Stores across America opened at midnight -- if they closed today at all -- in order to rope in desperate shoppers and convince us that, yes, you really can buy your way to joy and intimacy. Please, don't believe the hype. By all means, find concrete ways to express your love for the people who have blessed you all year long. Find real ways to show your gratitude for the gift of Jesus' life among us (alleluia!). But don't feel you HAVE to jump into the fevered mall/online frenzy later today or this weekend or this Advent season. And don't feel bad if you don't have the money to jump in, even if you wanted to.

Instead, I'm wondering what it would be like to fast this Advent. To shop less. To read more. To spend less. To sleep more. To drink less. To laugh more. To eat less. To care more. To pray more. To love more. Basically, to create a gracious space where Jesus can come and dwell as fully in me as he wants (one of the real points of the spiritual practice of fasting, as I understand it). Would you join me in the fast? I'll still go to the holiday parties and have a blast, but the fun would come from the relationships, the hope, the sweetness, the light, the stories of the people around me ... and not just from the excessive consumption that strangely leaves you feeling more hungry than when you started.

I could go on. Instead, I'll include a link to our page on how The Crossing community is engaging The Advent Conspiracy this year -- a counter-cultural approach to the season of prayer and preparation for Jesus' birth. If you're hoping to take part in the Conspiracy, now is the time to take up the four commitments, all of which should help each of us to shift gears and engage in something like a fast this Advent.

So when you feel tempted to watch that 3rd hour of television this weekend, instead find a way to pray and worship fully. When you're at the mall buying multiple gifts for someone who's already got plenty, remember you could spend less. When you've spent hours online shopping for that perfect gift, remember that people usually want your presence more than any present, and instead give moreof yourself and your time (and maybe make a relational gift instead). And when you look at your gift-list, imagine how you could love all by expanding the circle to include people who are poorer and hungrier than most of us could imagine. Maybe even set aside some of the money you're saving by spending less, and join others of us in giving to the Mothers' Union in Maseno, Kenya.

It's going to be a struggle. Every message you hear between now and Christmas will say Jesus wants you to have more stuff. I think he wants more from us, more space within us. Let's give that gift first. The rest of them will just fall into place.

Giving thanks for each of you and for the unspeakable joy that is God's gift to us all,
Rev. Steph

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