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

How to be a Wall Socket

by Erin Bird

Have you ever considered the existence of the electrical outlet before? There he is, stuck in a perpetual wall-sit as if being punished for some unspeakable crime. And perhaps he did commit a crime, because he has a bad temper. Turns out if you poke his eyes with scissors, he gets very angry, spitting electrical sparks at you. (Not that I would know from 6th grade study hall or anything…).

Dressed in only a modest cover, there he sits, all alone against the wall. But to leave him alone renders him completely useless.  Mr. Wall Socket was not created simply to be. (He makes a rather uninspiring wall decoration.) His purpose in life is to provide electricity for some man-made contraption. In other words, he exists to serve something (or someone) else.

Guess what? You are an electrical outlet. Whether you realize it or not, you were made to live for more than just you. You were not designed to remain alone, or just be another pretty face among the crowd. You were put on earth to interact with some God-made contraptions called humans.

Years ago, when I was ministering as the Young Adult Pastor at a church in Cedar Rapids, I remember reading the spiritual journey of one of the young adults in my church family. She shared a very clear story of how she found Jesus and how God had used pivotal moments in her life to shape her more into the image of Jesus.

But what struck me most in her writing was this quote:

“Up to this point [in my life], I’ve really been focused on growing myself spiritually. But now, I think I need to start focusing on what I can give to others.”

She was right. We can so often get focused on our own lives, including our own spiritual growth, that we forget that a big part of following Jesus is serving others like Jesus served others. After all, if we are going to live like Jesus lived, then we should emulate his mission statement:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Mark 10:45)

To put it another way, we aren’t to just sit on the wall. Instead, we should “plug in” and serve others. Here are two places you can “plug in”:

#1. Serve the Riverwood Family

Many of those within the Riverwood family are already serving one another. It’s so fun watching them greet at the door, or serve the kids in Kids Creek, or help clean-up after the Worship Gathering. But if you are part of Riverwood aren’t actively serving our church family, why not give it a try? We won’t arm twist you into doing something, but we’d love for you to take the gifts and energies God has placed in you and plug them into the life of Riverwood. Simply contact us about an area you’d love to help with (even if you think it’s an area that’s already “covered”) and we’ll do what we can to help you give some of your time and skills to making Riverwood an even better church family.

#2. Serve Where You’re At

Just like an electrician put the electrical outlet in a certain spot on the wall, God has put you in a certain spot. So how can you serve those in your neighborhood, or in your class, or in your job, or at the gym, or at the coffeeshop you go to three times per week? Find ways to give life and energy to those around you by serving them through the love God has shown you through the cross.

To sum this all up: Don’t just sit there; connect with those around you by serving them. You just might find the results a bit electrifying to your spiritual life!

Give More

by Erin Bird

In last week’s post, I talked about Spend Less, one of the four tenets of the Advent Conspiracy movement. This week, I want to touch on another tenet: Give More.

At first glance, these two tenets (Spend Less vs. Give More) seem to be contradictory. If you are going to give more, don’t you have to spend more?

hand playing piano

Let me use an illustration from musicto explain. I was a piano major in college, so I used that knowledge to give each of my children piano lessons at home. When each of my kids were learning the difference between playing loud and playing soft, they naturally would want to speed up when the song got louder or slow down when a song got quieter. But it is quite possible to play a song loud and slow (like a national anthem), or quickly and quietly (like a movie soundtrack adding suspense to an intense scene).

Likewise, it is VERY possible for you to Give More while simultaneously Spending Less. For instance, you can give more of your time by making presents this year or by volunteering someplace. You could give someone “coupons” for things like “shovel your drive,” “do your laundry,” “go on a date,” or “wash your car.” All it takes is a little creative thinking. And oftentimes you’ll find presents like these actually mean more to the recipient.

Along with this idea to Give More, I want to challenge you to consider how you can give more financially outside your family. Whether it be to Riverwood’s Impact Gift (which we will collect on Dec 16 for Eight Days of Hope), or a great Christ-centered organization like Compassion or International Justice Mission, giving helps relieve the tension that so often grips our hearts. Giving financially to others frees us up so that our hearts aren’t wrapped up in money but free to enjoy God and truly live life. Giving to others actually gives us joy.

This is why several years ago our family changed how we did our three gifts to each of our kids. Remember last week, I mentioned how we give each of our children three gifts based on the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child. The “myrrh” gift we give as a “practical” gift.

But it dawned on us. Whenever we need to get our kids something practical, like socks or jeans or winter boots, we just go out and buy it without much thought. Once we realized this, we made a decision with our kids to  give away their myrrh giftsThey get to choose giving something like clean water or food or mosquito nets or something else really practical that those in less fortunate circumstances need. The first year we did this, I remember one of our kids saying, “I’m really glad we’re doing this!”

Giving More to others gives more joy to you. And it frees you up to enjoy Christmas more. So I encourage you to Spend Less so you can Give More. If God can Give More by giving us Jesus, and Jesus can Give More by giving up his life for us, we can follow His example and Give More of our self this Christmas.

Like Riverwood on Facebook