Some thoughts in preparation for preaching on Sunday, Dec. 8 - Not carefully edited! Come on Sunday to share together what God will do with this!
Near the beginning of the (above) video that introduces The Advent Conspiracy, there's a part where it says "Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful but then it becomes shop shop shop, credit cards, traffic jams, to do lists, useless gifts. Then off to church."
This points to the separation of our lives into categories--parts I'm in charge of and parts I give to God.
This separation has existed since the devil's first temptation. His temptation, and our sin, has been to reject God's jurisdiction over ALL of our lives, even over those things that SEEM inconsequential. What harm could something do that is "good for food"?
So we put our desires and our comforts above what God knows is best, and, at the same time, make excuses and pretend that we aren't outright rebels. We do this by giving a part of our lives to God. That's what the pharisees were symbols of, i.e. "this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote" (Isaiah 29:13).
But God has a plan. God has conspired to definitively break into the non-religious part of our lives. He has come to BREAK THE BARRIER we have erected between our own personal (and family, business, community) lives. He announces this plan through the prophets, who are constantly telling the religious people that it does no good to do religious things while ignoring what happens in secular life.
The plan is finally fulfilled through Jesus. Through God who comes to be with us (and against us too! when we sin) in all of the areas of our lives.
This working out of this plan is shown when Jesus is born in a "non-religious" place ("what good can come from Nazareth?") among people who were not playing any kind of religious role, and when both heaven (angels) and earth (not religiously acceptable shepherds) rejoice and in Jesus' ministry as he calls common people as followers, pours out love and healing on the multitudes etc., and grants FORGIVENESS even to those who are not seeking it in religious ways.
And the barrier between secular and sacred is shattered definitively when the Holy Spirit creates a community that is not just religious but also common (believers sharing possessions etc.) and when worship now is not confined to religious locations (John 4) but is moved into homes.
This is plan is the "Advent Conspiracy." This is God's plan to bring ALL back into his Kingdom.
Of course, the devil continues to frustrate and tempt us, even after we have been given over to Him through trusting God. The evil one works to divide our lives once again, to put our relationship with God back into religious corners and pushing worldly comforts on us... especially, and tragically, exactly at those times when God desires us to remember how HE CAME to break the barrier at Christmas. And, sadly one of the things he does is to use this season to make materialists out of our kids. It's very sad. (See http://infoforfamilies.com/blog/2013/11/13/how-to-raise-a-pagan-kid-in-a-christian-home ... that doesn't speak specifically to Christmas, but it does warn us about what can happen when we keep the "church" / "home" divide in place. This is a devil's snare.)
So God calls us now to join that conspiracy, by being emptied of our own agendas for the holy-days and refilled with HIS holy plan and Spirit through His Word, and letting God rule our lives beyond church, and all the way into our homes. This conspiracy will take repentance. And we will need one another to do it, just as the early Christians needed one another, so do we.
That's why, this year, we will involve families with adults in the Christmas program... I can't wait. And it's why we'll encourage one another to tell our loved ones that they don't need to do any scurrying around for us because God has taken our greed and our need for "more" away from us. I'm inviting my family to give to Andria Jasper and her future mission work in Thailand. That would be a wonderful gift that matches God's heart in me.