Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

How to *Really* Keep Christ in Christmas (It's Probably Not What You Think)

Friends, can we talk?

Can we talk about this so-called war on Christmas? About "keeping Christ in Christmas"? About the boycotts and the fear-mongering?

As I see it, there is in fact a war on Christ's mass. Advent, which is meant to be a contemplative season of anticipation has become a whirlwind of obligations, sugar and spending.The special night once a year, set aside to celebrate the birth of our saviour, has been replaced with six weeks of plastic, sparkles, and gingerbread lattes.

But it has nothing to do with holiday sentiments at the shopping mall or on your company Christmas cards and the songs chosen for your child's public school choir performance.

We don't need the world to validate our worship.

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings aren't nasty offensive awful things to say. They are nice, kind-hearted greetings from well meaning friends and neighbours. They are inclusive, open, welcoming, and yes, secular greetings. Like "hello" and "good day".

To expect everyone everywhere, and even corporations and government offices to recognize our holy day, not just on the day of but for a whole month in advance,regardless of what other traditions and religions they themselves may practice is....

....it's absurd.

And, can I say this hard thing to you, in love? The idea of boycotting a big box store for a month because they have the words "Happy Holidays" plastered out front of their store and then returning in January to buy their unethically sourced, unsustainably produced items from an employee who isn't getting paid enough to live on? It seems a little inconsistent with my understanding of the new testament.

Frankly, I'm not sure that fighting to keep Christ's name on a social occasion marked by marketing and materialism and a mass stampede to the cheapest new electronic is something Christ would want. I wonder if maybe he'd rather us leave his name off of it all together and just do the things he asked us to do, like give and love and trust Him.

There is a war on Christmas. I know there is. It's in my own heart. It's the parts of me that want miracles and joy and community without surrender and sacrifice. It's the part of me that is tempted to buy a bunch of gifts I cant afford so that I can be an awesome gift giver instead of keeping my focus on the One who gave us the greatest gift imaginable. It's in the distractions and the noise of the season that blind my heart to the needs of others. It's in me, it's in you.

Dear friends, let's keep Christ in Christmas. Not by trying to make the corporations of the world scrub themselves up and look holy by our standards. But by intimately worshipping our saviour, teaching our children about the hope that was born in a manger, giving to those in need, and gathering together with a motley bunch of friends and family for a feast of joy and celebration of the King that came for us.

The trees? The gifts? Take them or leave them as your conscience permits. But gather together and worship. Worship the God who dared to step into our darkness to bring us the light. Nobody can take that from you.

Merry Christmas!

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One of the Most Counter-Cultural Things the Church Can Do

I have come to believe that one of the most meaningful and counter-cultural things we can do in this society is to be content with what we have. To opt-out of the constant search for more and better. To make a choice for less. And I believe that this choice can not only change us, it can change the world.

I believe that our hearts were meant to yearn for something more, something that is not available at the local shopping center.

I believe that stuff begets stuff and we rarely realize how much we have until we decide that we have enough.

I believe that our culture has fallen for the lie that we can have safety and security and identity in our possessions. We can't.

I believe that time is too short and too precious to spend buying, sorting, cleaning and organizing things we do not need.

I believe that when we clear out the things that don't matter, we make room for the things that do. That when we get rid of stuff we make room for people and life.

I believe that contentment is contagious. By living and thriving with less we challenge the status quo.

I believe that this commitment to less is one we make again and again.  Stuff ebbs and flows from our life, too much can so easily creep back in.  But the commitment to contentment can be made afresh as often as need be.

It's not about sparsely furnished lofts with walls painted white. It's not about counting my items to meet an arbitrary goal or having less than others. It's not about martyrdom or masochism or lashing our hearts into submission.

It's about love.

As a christian I believe that a simple, content life is an act of worship in response to the gospel. The same God who made provision for us today made our neighbour in His image.

The God that gave us our daily bread instructed us to share it.

Here's what I know for sure: The world cannot afford the American dream. Our over consumption is destroying the planet and taking lives.

And the more we fill our home and lives with things the more we are desensitized to the world in need.

By choosing contentment we reject the idea that the answer to our problems is always a credit card swipe away. We reject the lie that our God-crafted longing for beauty can be fulfilled in a store full of sparkly dishes and trinkets. We say enough is enough.

I too often get distracted by the things of this world. I get caught up in the desire for a joy-filled Christmas or a cozy, inviting home and somehow forget that these are not things that can be bought at a store. These are not things accomplished by having more.

I confess that I often crave more of this world instead of more of God.  But I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I want to put my last penny in the poor box and give away the coat on my back. I dream of a book-of-acts style community that shares until no one has need.

May we be a people who are content. Who live simply so that others can simply live.

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