“I don’t think we’ll understand Advent correctly until we see it as a preparation for a revolution.” The Rt. Rev. Robert Barron
Advent and Christmas can become obscene. You know what I mean. People spending money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, to impress people they often don’t like. And while there certainly will be moments of peace and holiness for us all over the coming weeks, there can also be incredible pressure to have the “perfect Christmas” – beautifully decorated house, fabulous food, luxurious gifts – all of which boils down to a message of “consume, consume, consume.”
Christians have been setting aside the season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, for at least 1,500 years, with the first recorded mention of Advent being at the Council of Tours in 567 A.D. It has traditionally been a season of spiritual preparation both for the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and for his Second Coming. The first and second coming of Christ are the pivotal points of human history, the culmination of the revolution that God wishes to bring about in this world. The revolution that Jesus brings sees the first being last and the last being first, sinners being offered forgiveness, creation being stewarded rather than exploited, kings thrown down from their thrones, the lowly being lifted, and the hungry filled with good things. So, if Advent is an opportunity to prepare for the coming revolution that Jesus inaugurates, how can we join the revolution and rebel against the siren call of consumerism this year?
As Anglicans united across our diverse diocese, let us search out ways to replace consumption with compassion this Advent and Christmas season. A wonderful resource that many churches are using is called “Advent Conspiracy” (www.adventconspiracy.org). Advent Conspiracy invites us to adopt these four habits (or four virtues):
- Worship fully. Advent begins and ends with Jesus. If you are not doing so already, take on the habit of daily scripture reading and prayer, create an Advent wreath as a family, and use an Advent calendar with your children and grandchildren.
- Spend less. Free up your resources to support things that truly matter. Calculate what you normally spend on gifts and entertaining during the Advent/Christmas season and resolve to spend 10 per cent less this year.
- Give more. Give more intentionally and relationally. You could do some of your Christmas shopping through the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, www.pwrdf.org.
- Love all. Radically love others as Jesus did. Is there a broken relationship in your life that you could be intentionally praying about through Advent? Invite a work colleague or friend to join you for one of the Advent or Christmas services at your church.
Advent is a season of waiting – waiting in the darkness for God’s hopes and dreams for the world to unfurl. While God’s reign will not fully be realized until the New Heaven and the New Earth have begun, we are invited to co-operate with the Holy Spirit and shine as lights in the darkness of our present age. Let us be known as people of compassion rather than consumption, preparing ourselves, our families and the communities we are part of, for the coming revolution of Jesus. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!