Note: This is the first in a 4-week series inspired by the Advent Conspiracy movement. Much of the following is inspired by the new book entitled Advent Conspiracy, by AC founders Rick McKinley, Chris Seay and Greg Holder. Because they say much of what needs to be said so eloquently, some of the words below are theirs, not mine. This series will follow the presentations our youth group will make to our congregation at FUMC Williamstown each week in Advent.
Today is Black Friday. Another Advent season is upon us. The mad rush to shop and buy and spend and wrap and give is on.
So, how will we worship?
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 9:11-13
Two thousand years ago, wise men, wealthy and powerful by the world’s standards, saw something significant happening in the stars. Following ancient writings and prophecies, they crossed half a continent and confronted a corrupt tyrant in order to experience something that would change the world.
They didn’t do it to build their treasuries. Or to increase their influence. They weren’t trying to impress anybody.
They risked everything to bring gifts of great value to an impoverished, unwed teenage mother and her baby.
They gave, and they worshipped.
And a conspiracy was born.
Just like on that first Christmas, babies will be born this Christmas in huts and shacks into families that can barely feed themselves, let alone a newborn. It will happen in Liberia and Nicaragua. It will happen in Williamstown and Marietta. Herod won’t try to kill them, but diseases will. Lack of adequate healthcare will. Hopelessness will.
And the question to us this Christmas is, how will we worship?
Will we sit in church, disconnected from the story, just paying it lip-service? Are we too far from the manger to see the reality of God entering the world? Will we continue to try to quench our desire for fulfillment in ways and places that take us further and further from the nativity? Using our time, attention and money to keep fueling a corrupt empire?
Or can this be the year we truly enter the story of Jesus? Can we reach beyond our well-rehearsed responses, past the often-empty rituals, and really take Jesus seriously? Can we seek to desire in our hearts the same things that move His heart?
In his book, The Dangerous Act of Worship, author Mark Labberton says this about real worship:
“…(T)he very heart of how we show and distinguish true worship is apparent in how we respond to the poor, the oppressed, the neglected, and the forgotten….(J)ustice and mercy are not add-ons to worship, nor are they the consequences of worship. Justice and mercy are intrinsic to God and therefore intrinsic to the worship of God.”
The conspiracy began when God entered the world through a baby in poverty. It was nothing less than the beginning of the end of injustice. It was the birth of hope in a damaged and broken world.
Once again, we have the opportunity to extend our worship beyond the walls of our homes and churches and into the lives of people in Liberia, Nicaragua and right here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. If we can embrace the call to spend less, to give more of ourselves, and to love all the way Jesus does, our giving to these mission opportunities will let us meet Jesus in a whole new way. Take some time to explore the mission opportunities that are available to you. Then ask God to meet you in one of them. And watch this Christmas change the world.
When we focus our hearts not on the desire of things and wealth and comfort, but on the desire for justice and mercy and love, worship happens. And so as the world cries out for hope and liberation, engage this Advent in real worship–by risking everything, by confronting the empire of materialism & consumerism, and by entering the story of God’s kingdom.