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SUBSTITUTING COMPASSION FOR CONSUMPTION

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By Karen Gleason

It’s a conspiracy—a holiday conspiracy—and the more people involved, the better.

Pause in the holiday hustle and bustle, switch off the consumer mentality, and join the Advent Conspiracy.

Advent Conspiracy [AC] aims to restore “the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.” What started in 2006 with three pastors—Rick McKinley of Imago Dei Community in Portland, Ore.; Greg Holder from The Crossing in St. Louis, Mo.; and Chris Seay of Ecclesia in Houston, Texas —is now an international movement to replace presents with presence.

“In the last seven years it’s been amazing to see the movement of Advent Conspiracy grow,” Seay said, “it’s been a reminder to me that the little nudges we receive from God…have huge dividends when we are obedient.”

The basic premise is simple: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All. Messages on each tenet are available at adventconspiracy.org, which explains the concept as follows:

Worship Fully—Christmas marks the moment when God’s promise was fulfilled and love took form, manifested in a baby boy. It is a moment that deserves our full attention and praise. Worship Fully is [AC]’s first tenet because conspirators believe the level of our involvement at Christmas is based entirely on how much we are celebrating Christ’s birth. He deserves celebration; one that is creative, loud and directs every heart his way.

Spend Less—Quick question: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? In fact, many of us don’t remember because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year.

The American Research Group estimates that the average U.S. consumer will spend $800 in 2013—over $250 billion nationwide. By spending wisely on gifts, we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.

Give More—The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ballgame or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

0607AdventConspiracyLove All—It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. [AC] encourages giving to organizations that exist to help others.

“I’ve been amazed to personally see at Ecclesia the way that families have been transformed by investing in a kingdom that is eternal rather than one that is so, so temporary,” Seay said. “As the movement grows, I see an increased maturity in families that are finding deeper and deeper ways to develop intimacy first with Jesus and then with one another and to use that intimacy as the motivation to care for the thirsty and hungry all across the globe. I think there is no better way to celebrate the birth of a king who came to liberate all people from sin and death.”

The Salvation Army is no stranger to [AC].  In 2011, Nebraska’s Grand Island Corps made the local news when it participated. This year, the Harbour United Methodist Church in Meridianville, Ala., is encouraging members to adopt an angel from The Salvation Army Angel Tree instead of exchanging gifts with one another. The Door Creek Church in Madison, Wis., includes The Salvation Army’s programs for local homeless women and children in its conspiracy guide.

This December, the Army in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, is exploring the four tenets of the conspiracy. Corps Officers Captains Jason and Tammy Sabourin discovered it through social media and built sermons around [AC]’s four tenets, using resources and a kids’ curriculum from the website.

“Overall, we are trying to challenge people with what the real spirit of Christmas is,” Jason Sabourin said.

Teams and individuals from the corps are using The Salvation Army’s Gifts of Hope (goo.gl/SiSFt9) to select gifts that will improve life for others. Everyone should be able to give something, Sabourin said, since choices range in price and include items from mosquito nets to cows.

“These are gifts that keep on giving, gifts that will benefit people’s lives,” Sabourin said. “Christmas is a time of hope, compassion and love—that’s the whole point of Christ’s coming. If people get back to that, they can celebrate despite how much money they have.”

The opportunities to share the love of Christ by giving to those in need are numerous, and The Salvation Army offers myriad avenues to give from volunteer opportunities to international child sponsorship.

As Sabourin said, “If you want to show love, give of yourself, not just your money.”

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