Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Christmas Coup

I needed an afternoon pick-me-up today so I stopped at Starbucks and plunked down my Gold Card without thinking. I had just ordered a Grande Quad Gingerbread Latte (If that doesn't get me going, I don't know what would). Using a gift card that automatically reloads by charging my VISA account is really a dangerous thing. It makes it seem like drinks from Starbucks magically appear without cost - until you look at the VISA bill of course. $5.73 for my afternoon indulgence. Yikes! Even with the 25% discount my Gold Card allows, that is still a lot for the extravagance of Gingerbread flavor, whipped cream, 4 shots of espresso and a slight, momentary burst of energy.

When I returned to my office I began working on details of a campaign we as a church are embarking on during Advent. It is called ADVENT CONSPIRACY. The whole point of this subversive plot is to recapture the true meaning of the Christmas event; namely the incarnation of God into human flesh. How radical can you get huh? After all, for the last month at least, businesses have been displaying Christmas decorations, playing Christmas music, and advertising the latest and greatest electronic toys, fashions and power tools that will make the perfect gift at Christmas. In some small way, we are hoping to take back Christmas from the rebels who stole it in the first place.

Our battle strategy is simple. We are asking each of our members and friends to consider redirecting the dollars that they normally spend on extravagant parties, excessive, highly caloric foods, and expensive gifts (that are often times unwanted and unused by the person receiving them). Where will they be redirected? Towards a gift and an act of compassion and love that will truly exemplify the true meaning of the sacrifical love that brought Jesus to earth in the first place.

If every member of our surruptitious cabal redirects even a small portion of the money they would otherwise spend on other things, we can pool those resources and provide safe drinking water for a community and for people in an underdeveloped country. We plan to team up with Food for the Hungry (a Phoenix-based world relief agency) to provide either a bore-hole well or a hi-tech water filter or both (or even several)for a village in Kenya.

Ever since seeing the joy of a community in Zambia over a simple well, I find myself thinking alot about how easily I take water for granted. It is reported that 4 children die every minute from diseases caused by unclean water (the H2O project). Over one billion people (1,000,000,000) lack access to clean drinking water. ( 2.5 billion are affected by lack of proper sanitation.

One of the tools we will use is to ask people to consider giving up (not entirely)some of the other beverages they normally drink and setting that same amount of money aisde towards this effort. For example, if the average person cut back on the number of sodas, sports drinks, coffee beverages and juice they drink every day for a month, they would feel a sense of solidarity with a large portion of the world's population. Not only that, they would have saved over $150.00 to give towards the completion of a well that will produce clean, safe water for hundreds - maybe thousands of people - for years to come.

That is a Christmas present, wouldn't you agree? That speaks to the heart of the Christmas message much more than the frantic rush for great sales on "Black Friday."
And that is just by drinking mostly, if not entirely, water instead of other beverages for the month.

So, I think I will start right now. I'm going to finish this rich, calorie-laden, artery-clogging, caffeine rich, over-priced coffee drink. Then I am going to cut back to only a cup or two of plain drip coffee each morning and drink water the rest of the day. I figure by Christmas day, I will save a lot - a whole lot - of money that can be used so others can live and have better health.

Judy and I have also determined that we are not going to buy each other gifts this year but use the same amount of money we normally spend to go towards this project. Instead, we plan on making gifts, or doing special things for each other as a way of saying "I love you" and "Merry Christmas."

Sounds a little subversive to our commercial, consumer driven culture doesn't it? You know, a lot of people are fighting to take Christ out of Christmas. Maybe we already have by giving in to the material and commercially driven focus it has become. To put Christ back in Christmas is much more than being able to call it Christmas in speech. Let's really do it right. Let's overthrow the citadel. Let's re-take what truly belongs to us - the message. "That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage." (Matthew 20:28 The Message)

Lord, help me be strong. Help me keep the needs of others in view this Christmas. Allow me to make a difference by "worshiping fully; spending less; giving more and loving your people."

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