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Advent Conspiracy - Week 3: "Spend Less"

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Today is the Third Sunday of the season of Advent, and the third installment of our sermon series for the season of Advent--The Advent Conspiracy. 

The whole purpose of the Advent Conspiracy is to re-frame this time of year from a Christian perspective and to get people to stop buying into the consumerism that dominates the season.  When we do, we find that we are able to live more relationally and use our money to do something worthwhile--to help build the kingdom of God.  

Give More, Spend Less, Worship Fully and Love All.  


Let's learn today why it's important to Spend Less. 

Every year at Christmastime my family sacrifices a few Christmas ornaments in the name of progress---or carelessness, to be more precise.

When you have kids, these things happen.  Adults are pretty adept at smashing ornaments, but kids make it an Olympic sport.

Some time ago, in order to avoid Armageddon-like activity with our ornaments, we determined that the bottom portion of our Christmas tree needed to b…

Savior Song

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My littlest boy is excited.  

Yesterday we read that there were only "11 more sleeps" until Christmas.  

He ran through the house like a crazy person last night before it was time for bed.  From where I was downstairs at the time, it sounded like a herd of cattle being taken to market.  

Meanwhile, my middle son could be heard in his room practicing his trumpet as he prepared for the Christmas band concert at school tonight.  

There was a rhythm to all the noise in the house--a song of sorts that seemed to be playing as we moved together through Advent.  

This song exists all around us all of the time, I'm learning.  The song of the Savior, singing in the ordinary, the mundane.  A song that can be heard in the sounds of life around us.  

However most of us miss this song because we are too busy, or too frazzled to hear anything more than our own jumbled and jaded thoughts.  We often miss hearing the Savior singing because our ears are filled with the noise of our troubled and …

River

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There's a phrase that often drifts in and out of my head during this particular week of Advent--a week when we reflect on what it means that Jesus brings peace to a world that seems far from peaceful.

Here is the phrase: "Peace Like A River." 

What does it even mean to have peace like a river?  And how do we find peace in this troubled world?  

Horatio Spafford wrote the great hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" in 1873 after losing all four of his daughters when the ship carrying them and his wife sank in the Atlantic ocean.  The first line of the song is, "When peace like a river, attendeth my way..."  

When I was a kid, I would sing the old song, "I've Got Peace Like a River" at the top of my lungs in Sunday school.  Little did I know that the song originated from African American slaves, who would sing it at the top of their lungs in the fields as they worked.  

Paul Simon wrote "Peace Like A River" during the turbulence of the 1960&…

Longing

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Novelist and poet Reynolds Price wrote that there is one thing above all others that all human beings long to hear: that the "Maker of all things loves and wants me." 

During this season of Advent we lean forward in expectation of Christmas and the coming of the Messiah, but for far too many of us lose the plot this time of year.  

We fill our Advent days with worry, hurry and razor thin margins in our schedules.  We wonder why we are so tired, and stretched.  

And the entire time, we feel this sense of longing---a desire for something more, something meaningful, something that will give us the kind of peace and hope that can only come with knowing just how loved and desired we are by God.  

An ancient Hebrew poet fashioned a prayer to describe that longing when he wrote:  
"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?  Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation."So we rush headlong toward the moment when God entered into the wo…

Your True Self

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I read this quote from theologian Richard Rohor this morning and it got me thinking about my own Advent journey:   

We spend most of our lives projecting and protecting our small, separate self-image... [Our true self-image in Jesus] doesn’t come with feelings of success, others’ approval, awards, promotions, or wealth. In fact, others may think us foolish or crazy. And so we put off the death of our false self. We cling to our ego because it feels substantial and essential. - Richard Rohr

The path to discovering our true self is not one that we can sort of wander down aimlessly and comfortably until suddenly we find it.  It's quite the opposite, actually.  

And the idea of finding our true self through following Jesus sometimes clashes with our realities, and our own frailty and fears.  The Apostle Paul wrote about this conflict in his letter to the Romans:  "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." 

Then he writes this,…

Spinning

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Some Sundays at my church, when the worship music is particularly lively, there is a little girl who will pry herself loose from her parents, and make her way down to the front of our worship space where she'll begin to dance. 

She'll twirl and jump in time to the music, reveling in worship in a way that most of us would daydream of doing, but would never dare.  

The unexpectedness of her dance always brings smiles of joy from everyone who experiences it.  She is a leaping, spinning, joyful reminder of what it means to be a Jesus-centered community of faith.  

I've learned that when a church is at it's best is when it is able to hold on to it's traditions and expectations loosely enough to experience a new song, and to engage in a new way of dancing to the rhythms of the Spirit of Christ.  

During this season of Advent, those of us who claim to follow Jesus need to expect the unexpected.  We need to be ready to sing a new song, and dance a new dance.  The world is watc…

Snow

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It snowed in Texas yesterday--a real snow that came down in big wet flakes that actually stuck.  

I happened to be making a grocery run when it started to snow really hard.  As I made my way to the entrance to the store, everyone I encountered had a surprised and joyous look on their face.  

At one point in the evening my boys were having a snowball fight with the neighbor kids down the street.  I stood on the steps watching the snow fall and could hear them shrieking for joy.  

I've lived in places where it snowed more than once every few years.  But this particular little snowstorm in Texas ranks up there with the most memorable in my life--mostly because it was so surprising.  

This Advent season I have been reading through the book of Revelation from the New Testament. It's a difficult book to decipher with all of its first century references, and strange images.  

But what I love about Revelation is that in every moment when you think that the world is about to end, when every…