Love All this Christmas

This week, we jump into Part 3 of our Advent Conspiracy series, looking at the tenet of “Love All.” And to help us contemplate how we can do just that, once again here is the team from Advent Conspiracy with some thoughts:


At Christmas, one of the things that should distinguish a Christ-follower is a love that reaches out to the marginalized and the forgotten.

Such giving is an act of true worship. For Jesus this is personal. Read the Christmas narrative and remember that the Son of God chose to be born into a family that was struggling with poverty. Nobody expected the Messiah to be born in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem.

Over and over again in Scripture, we see Jesus teaching that He is on the side of the impoverished. As followers of Christ, we are called to do the same–to lavishly love the poor, the hurting, and the lonely. The people in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our cities, and around the world.

When God’s people serve in humble, generous ways, the story of Jesus is told again and again. The poor in our world will be touched by God through how we choose to celebrate Christmas. Through our actions and our words, people will be reminded that they are loved by the Creator of the universe and He has not forgotten them.

When we show up and love in the name of God, God shows up.

That’s part of the mystery of partnering with Jesus in the work he is still doing. Remember to love and serve not out of a place of guilt but as an act of worship. We must not forget that. The good news of the gospel is for all people, including us! We radically love others because we have personally experienced the radical love of God. That changes our hearts and it should change the way we celebrate Christmas. As it says in 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.”

Ways to Love All this Christmas:

  • Donate the money you saved from spending less.
  • Invite someone to church with you this week.
  • Be the person with an extra dose of patience this week. Listen well to others, offer grace.
  • Read Matthew 25. Notice how much Jesus cares about the way we love and serve others.
  • Serve at the monthly Waverly Food Pantry in January or the Wednesday Café on Dec 31.
  • Pray for families around the world that are in need: single moms, refugees, villages without clean water, the homeless in your city.

In light of this week’s topic of Love All, we want to show love to our “neighbors” in the Northside neighborhood of Minneapolis by giving our Impact Gift to Patrick Ray and his church planting team. We are collecting our annual Impact Gift on Sunday, Dec 20. If you won’t be able to join us on the 20th, or would prefer to give online, you may do so here; just be sure to select “Christmas Impact Fund” in the drop-down menu.

Give More this Christmas

Welcome to December! On what feels like the 5th anniversary of 2020 (aka the year that never ends), we want to close out this calendar year by helping you get the most out of this Advent season. That’s why we are back with Part 2 of our Advent Conspiracy series, looking at the tenet of “Give More.” And to help us contemplate how we can do just that, here is the team from Advent Conspiracy with some thoughts*:

We’ve talked about rebelling against consumerism by Spending Less, but now we’re encouraging you to Give More… Is that a contradiction? Nope! Giving More isn’t about giving more toys, more gadgets, more clothes, more gift cards, more stuff.

God is calling us to Give More intentionally and relationally. That means giving more of our time, our energy, our memories, our talents, our presence. It’s a both/and. Spend less money and give more of yourself to the ones you love.

We believe that the best gifts celebrate a relationship. Think back on the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received. Chances are there is a story and a relationship that was connected to that gift. Now try and remember all of the gifts you were given last year…For most of us, that’s hard to do.

It sounds obvious, yet we seem to have drifted away from this liberating, straightforward truth: The Father gave his one and only Son (John 1:14, 3:16). God’s answer for the world’s problems has never been material things. God did not give us more stuff – even good stuff like work, food, or health. He gave us himself. The most priceless and personal gift of all!

Relational giving means we think about the other person–who they are and what they care about. We focus more on giving our undivided presence and less on a pile of presents under the tree. This takes time and effort on our part. These kinds of gifts often require planning, but you’ll hardly be able to wait until Christmas to give such a gift!

When we give relationally during the Advent season, this is what we remember: it’s an opportunity to worship as we remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake. If we can resist the trap of giving easy gifts, and reject the assumption that giving expensive gifts is the best way to express love, something else might begin to happen. Our kids, family, neighbors, and coworkers will watch us celebrate Christmas differently, and through our actions, they will hear the good news of the Gospel.

Some ideas to help you Give More:

  • Check out this list of relational gift ideas.
  • If you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one person on your list to give a relational gift to.
  • On Christmas morning, turn off your cell phone. Take a couple of hours to be present with your family and focus on the people God has put in your life.
  • Invest in experiences you can share: Sign up for dance lessons, go camping, plan a vacation, take cooking classes.
  • Pass down memories: Make a recipe book or photo album to give to your family.
  • Get a blank journal and write notes and prayers to your kids or a close friend.
  • Give a copy of your favorite book to a friend and then meet up for coffee and discuss it. Then switch and read their favorite book.
  • Buy someone a gift that relieves a burden: babysitting money, help out with yard work, make a meal. Or give them a set of “coupons” that does a similar thing. (Download some coupon ideas here.)
  • Give the gift of hospitality: Invite a new family over for dinner and games.
  • Do an activity with your kids: puzzles, jewelry making, baking, hiking, fishing, sports. Be present.
  • Set out a “giving jar” at home or at work. Any monies put in the jar within a certain time span (like from now until Dec 24) will be given to a charity, family, or project of your choice.

In light of this week’s topic of Give More, don’t forget: we are collecting our annual Impact Gift on Sunday, Dec 20, to be given to Northside Neighborhood Church to help them do neighborhood revitalization of homes and property destroyed by gang violence or drunk drivers. If you won’t be able to join us on the 20th, or would prefer to give online, you may do so here; just be sure to select “Christmas Impact Fund” in the drop-down menu.

 

*originally published at https://adventconspiracy.org/give-more/

Spend Less

By Erin Bird

With Christmas rapidly approaching, let’s jump back into our “Advent Conspiracy” series, conspiring together to make this the most meaningful Christmas ever. And to do so, here is the blog post from the Advent Conspiracy website on the topic of “Spend Less,” one of the four tenets of this “conspiracy.”

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Spend less is an ambiguous goal. Spend less than last year? Spend less than my neighbor? The truth is there is no formula. The challenge of this tenet is to be willing to ask more questions and then be open to hearing what God says in return. Some questions you could ask might be…

  • Is this something I want or something I need?
  • Why do I want to buy this?
  • What kind of company am I supporting if I purchase this product?
  • Can I afford to spend this amount?
  • How many presents do we actually need?
  • What did we do with the presents from last year?

You see, spending less requires us to plan. Instead of mindlessly shopping online and ordering more than we know what to do with, we take the time to think about each purchase. We strive to thoughtfully evaluate what we support with our spending, and allow our spending to support products, people, and causes worthy of being supported. By spending a little less on ourselves we are able to more joyfully give to others in need.

It is not enough to say “no” to the way Christmas is celebrated by many; we need to say “yes” to a different way of celebrating.

It’s important to remember that when we choose to spend less on Christmas presents, it doesn’t mean that we love our friends and family any less. In fact, for many of us, we’ve found that the creative, intentional gifts we give showcase our love – and perhaps God’s – more clearly than ever before.

More than just an invitation to say no to overspending, this is an invitation to a new way of celebrating. This year start a new tradition of spending compassionately and responsibly.

Some ideas to help you Spend Less this Christmas:

  • Make a Christmas budget and then stick to it. Don’t compare yourself to others; pray and do what is best for your family.
  • Research companies that are Fair Trade.
  • Pray for the people on your Christmas list before purchasing anything. Make spending a conscious decision that engages your heart.
  • It’s not just about the presents. Notice how much you’re spending on other Christmas activities (going out to eat, new outfits, wrapping paper, decorations, etc.). Find one area where you can cut back this year.
  • Write down five things you’re thankful for. Take inventory of how blessed you already are.
  • Set a spending limit as a family. Let everyone have the same amount to spend on each other. You’ll be surprised at how creative your kids will get!
  • Donate old and unused clothes, toys, and books to a local organization. Notice how much stuff you actually don’t use or need.

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By “Spending Less,” you set yourself up to “Give More” which we will talk about next week. ‘Til then, have a great week!

Love All

 

by Erin Bird

So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.

But is it?

When you are at the office Christmas party, and Randolph has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.

Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated political tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.

To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?

Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, but rather truly Love All, here’s some advice:

1. Pray
It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross, rather he died for them and their sin.)

Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.

2. Plan
Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts ranting about some fringe theological viewpoint. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.

In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

3. Give
Last week, we looked at the topic of Give MoreWhat could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.

As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

A Real Life Example
I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.

Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.

She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”

Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.

Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:

  1. she had prayed about the situation,
  2. made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
  3. then gave him something,

it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.

I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.

And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.

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