Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Conspiracy II: Spend Less

"Christian Consumers Are Consumers First." Shopping for God by James B. Twitchell

Average Bible shopper has nine of them & is still looking for more!

Not just consuming goods but services too. And we are 'discerning' shoppers, too. Watching out for 'my needs' & 'my wants'. Jesus wants to change our 'wanter'!

If an alien was to come & observe our proceedings this Christmas, what would they see? What message are we embodying?

Consumerism is our competition: our God is really what our life revolves around, and for most North Americans it revolves around consuming goods & services. Most if not all people go for ‘retail therapy’ when we are hurting or in need. Look at Christmas, once celebrated as the arrival of Jesus Christ but now the occasion for the biggest shopping spree and consumptive time of the year. Yet why for so many is it so hollow? We want to be a people who’s lifes revolve around Jesus Christ and His way of life.

Jesus junk. Retail therapy. Lease busters add on radio directed obviously at men who like cars. Shopping can be an addiction, a form of acting out.

Despite concern over the negative influence of media on young people, Christian parents are likely to spend more than $1 billion on media products this Christmas season’, says a new survey.

Teen materialism linked to self-esteem
"The level of materialism in teens is directly driven by self-esteem. When self-esteem drops as children enter adolescence, materialism peaks. Then, by late adolescence, when self-esteem rebounds, their materialism drops." Deborah Roedder John, Professor of Marketing, University of Minnesota

Last week we looked at the idea of ‘Worship More’ for Advent Conspiracy. This week is, ‘Spend Less’, or ‘Trying To Cure Affluenza’.

Isn’t Christmas such a nice story? So peaceful, so full of presents…

Matthew 2:16-18
Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he'd gotten from the scholars.) That's when Jeremiah's sermon was fulfilled: A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried.

When Christ was born the empire was threatened and as a result Herod, who was one of the more powerful kings of the day, ordered the killing of all the boys two years old and under who were in Bethlehem. The reason for this was that he hoped to take out the child-King that posed a threat to his kingdom.

While we are not living under Herod’s reign, there is another empire of consumerism and materialism that threatens our faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus brought with him such an extraordinary Kingdom that is counter-culture to the kingdoms of this world.

Part of saying “yes” to Jesus means that we say “no” to over-spending. We say “no” to over-consumption. We say “no” to these things so we can create space to say “yes” to Jesus and His reign in our lives. After the Holiday we work for months to get out of debt, only to find that the presents we bought in the name of Christ furthered a consumerist mentality in our children and us and took our focus off of the greatness of Jesus. As Christ-followers, the Advent Conspiracy starts with us resisting a culture that tells us what to buy, wear and spend with no regard to bringing glory to Jesus.

Now before The Golden Compass got so many Christians up in arms there was an even more successful book & movie to rail about. Anybody remember The Da Vinci Code?

It plays on a general assumption that the church’s wealth & power have blinded it from understanding the humble reality of its founder. An agent of the Church murders a key figure because it has the most to lose if the secret is revealed. The readers of Da Vinci are split of the divinity of Jesus, but they pretty much agree that the Church would stop at nothing to maintain its place of power & wealth in society today.

Maybe our consumerism is an even bigger conspiracy. It’s just a thought…

Consumerism is the notion that the more we consume the better off we will be. It’s the supreme idolatry of our times. It places my temporal wants at the center of my own little universe. As the dominant way of deriving meaning, it is responsible for countless neuroses fed by corporations whose shareholders insist on ever-increasing profits, and it is responsible for near runaway exploitation of this earth's natural resources.

Is it possible to subvert consumerism, to inject a virus into it that causes us to slow down, consider the needs of others, and whilst at the same time redefining our place in the world?

The popular and domesticated Jesus…has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilization…
Brian McClaren

Image acquisition. Advertising in our “cool whip culture”: banana-flavored desserts don’t have anything resembling a banana in them. But the banana flavoring tastes more like a banana than, well, a banana!

We want a beer commercial life.

People say, "Thy Kingdom come" out of one side of their mouth, but they don't, out of the other side of their mouth, say, "My kingdom go."

Matthew 6:19-21
"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

Shiny Happy People by REM
Shiny happy people laughing
Meet me in the crowd
People, people
Throw your love around
Love me, love me
Take it into town
Happy, happy
Put it in the ground
Where the flowers grow
Gold and silver shine

Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing

Everyone around
Love them, love them
Put it in your hands
Take it, take it
There's no time to cry
Happy, happy
Put it in your heart
Where tomorrow shines
Gold and silver shine

Our modern church is filed with many people who look pure, sound pure, and are inwardly sick of themselves, their weaknesses, their frustration and the lack of reality around them in the church. Our non-Christian friends feel either, ‘that bunch of nice untroubled people would never understand my problems’; or the more perceptive pagans who know us socially or professionally feel that we Christians are either grossly protected and ignorant about the human situation or are out-and-out hypocrites who will not confess the sins and weakness (they know intuitively) to be universal. Keith Miller

In the book of Joshua we hear what sounds like a great 'charge' to consider at Christmas:

Joshua 24:14-24
"So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side. You, worship God.

If you decide that it's a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you'd rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country you're now living. As for me and my family, we'll worship God.

The people answered, "We'd never forsake God! Never! We'd never leave God to worship other gods.

God is our God! He brought up our ancestors from Egypt and from slave conditions. He did all those great signs while we watched. He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we've traveled and among the nations we've passed through. Just for us he drove out all the nations, Amorites and all, who lived in the land.
"Count us in: We too are going to worship God. He's our God."

Then Joshua told the people: "You can't do it; you're not able to worship God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He won't put up with your fooling around and sinning. When you leave God and take up the worship of foreign gods, he'll turn right around and come down on you hard. He'll put an end to you—and after all the good he has done for you!"

But the people told Joshua: "No! No! We worship God!"

And so Joshua addressed the people: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen God for yourselves—to worship him."
And they said, "We are witnesses."

Joshua said, "Now get rid of all the foreign gods you have with you. Say an unqualified Yes to God, the God of Israel."

The people answered Joshua, "We will worship God. What he says, we'll do."

If God says that in the Old testament what kind of things does God say in the New Testament?

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Exodus 20:17
No lusting after your neighbor's house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's.

God Wants Our Hearts.

Maybe we should have a 'Shopping confessional'.

The best question in Advent isn't, 'What can I get?'

To take the way of Jesus seriously is to realize the best question is, 'What can I give?'

All of us can be more generous. What can you or I give today? What can you or I give tomorrow? May we truly come to grips with how much we are blessed and the fact that you & I are rich and are capable of being very generous. Then and only then will we have life that is truly life.

Could you follow the “one-for-one” rule? For every one item that comes into your home, one must go.

What about a January clean up or “spring cleaning” where anything that hasn’t been used for a year is given away.

What challenges and joys have you experienced in reducing the burden of stuff? Has it been easier to give away for a purpose for Christmas With Style or something familiar?

Some have called Christmas, 'The Orgy of Selfishness'. Worship More this Christmas. And Spend Less.


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