Advent Conspiracy, Week One

Yesterday our church began a four-week study of the book and DVD Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? It was a good discussion with a lot of back and forth. The ideas in the study aren’t new—the DVD is your basic “put Christ back in Christmas” message, this time with hipper graphics and more goatees.

It’s a good study, and a powerful message—one we need to hear again and again. It is so easy to get sucked in. I don’t have the numbers on hand in terms of how much debt people take on as a result of Christmas, but it’s sizable. However, as I’ve written before, this is not an easy issue. Receiving gifts is pleasurable. Giving gifts is too. And some people’s jobs depend on us buying stuff. (One person heard an “it’s evil to be wealthy” message in the study, which I did not hear, but studies on this topic often sacrifice nuance to make their point.)

Side note: I had to chuckle—the topic was “worship fully” and the DVD talked about the shepherds, who were the underclass of the society, and yet they were the first to receive the message. And they went immediately to Bethlehem to check out the story and worship the child. Several dear folks wanted to know what happened to the sheep these shepherds left behind. That wasn’t very responsible of those shepherds!

Someone suggested that perhaps one of the shepherds stayed behind so the others could go to “worship Christ the newborn king,” and if that’s true, that person was definitely a Presbyterian.

Anyway.

For me this Christmas stuff is all about intentionality. (It always is.) This morning I am making our gift list. Once again I am thinking about the Five Love Languages and how this holiday is set up for a default love language—giving and receiving gifts—and not for the others. To what extent can one buck that?

We received an Uncommon Goods catalog yesterday, and the kids and I oohed and aahed over each page. There are some lovely things in there. But that catalog represents everything I struggle with during this season. Lots of beautiful, intriguing, but not-needful things. Don’t get me wrong, not every gift needs to have a utilitarian purpose. But that catalog fits well into the niche of Yet More Stuff for the Person Who Already Has Everything. (See also: Signals and Wireless) I am reminded of a friend who has an aversion to getting stuff she has to dust…

I am also thinking about the people who will give us gifts unexpectedly. Can I receive them without feeling guilt at not reciprocating? Can I assume that they have given to us because they genuinely want to? Or if they haven’t—if they are giving out of obligation or expectations of something in return—then can I just let that be their issue and not mine?

And am I about 10 minutes away from overthinking this? (Don’t answer that—what would blogging be without overthinking?)

Image: Season’s Greetings “Postcarden” from UncommonGoods.

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5 thoughts on “Advent Conspiracy, Week One

  1. Kelley says:

    I would imagine there are quite a few things we all feel guilty about that we should not own.

    Definitely don’t feel guilty about gifts given that you don’t intend (or need) to reciprocate.
    Let people own their gift giving.

    You and your family are easy to love. And, as a pastor, you give your gifts of ministry to your church family…so let people give. Receive the gifts as acts of love and remember you are already loving them.

    Too funny about the abandonded sheep! Thank God for rationaly thinking Presbyterians who always do the right thing! 😉

    I always enjoy thinking of you during this season because of your over-the-top love of Christmas music 24/7. It makes me smile.

  2. Kelley says:

    arrggh…*rational

  3. Rebecca says:

    Got a great laugh from your side note! So true.
    When I receive unexpected gifts, I do try to write a nice thank you note, even if I expressed thanks in person. For most, that is thoughtful enough that it feels reciprocated. The vast majority of people give out of kindness, and for the very few who don’t, well, yes, just let it be their issue–because what they want, you just can’t give.

    • Rachel Heslin says:

      I like this. I was going to simply echo the “don’t feel obligated” chorus, but I do like the idea of a thank you note, which makes it special in this day and age.

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