Water: Fresh. Sparkling. Clear. Refreshing. Healthful. Accessible. Wasted.
Water: Scarce. Stagnant. Murky. Sickening. Disease. Gerry Cans and barrels. Precious.
Two different perspectives on a life giving commodity. Even though the majority of the world is comprised of water, safe, drinkable water is inaccessible to a large proportion of the world's population. The human body is 98% water yet without it, our bodies weaken and die.
Generally, I don't think much about water. I let it run while I shave and while I try to adjust the shower temperature to just the right degree for my liking. I brush my teeth with it and wash my car with it. I water the grass and our flowers. I use it to make coffee, cook pasta and boil potatoes. I swim in it, bathe in it, skim across it in a boat and see it as something to take for granted.
But around the world, where poverty, disease, illiteracy, overpopulation and lack of opportunity prevail, a correlating reality is that fresh, clean, safe water to drink is not available. Often women and children have to walk miles (kilometers just to collect enough water to cook their daily food, drink and wash with. Often that water that takes so much time, energy, and so heavy a toll on health, is water we wouldn't think of using for any purpose.
When Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well over 2,000 years ago, she was doing what is daily reality for a large percentage of the world's population; she was drawing water for her household. Then as now, the task of gathering water continues to be relegated to women and children. It would not have been uncommon for Jesus to have asked a woman for a drink from the water she was collecting.
What was uncommon and extraordinary was that this was a Samaritan Woman; a woman that it would have been scandalous to have been talking to. But that was Jesus. And as he addresses her, he tells her about a different, life-giving kind of water; the kind of water that, if a person drinks it, wells into springs of living and eternal water.
You and I have also experienced that life-giving water that is Christ's life within us. We know what it is to have been forgiven, renewed, refreshed and cleansed by the life-giving power of Jesus' death and resurrection. We have water to give...in abundance. We have both the ability to provide safe drinking water for the world's population so that a child doesn't have to die every 15 seconds from a waterborne disease. And we also have that life water welling up to eternal life within us that so many people in the world are desperately craving.
Each year Americans spend over 400 billion dollars on things like tie tacks, gag gifts, desk organizers, expensive toys, and more gifts that our loved ones may not need and, in some cases, really don't want. At the same time Americans will spend inestimable amounts of their income on parties, food, and drink. Now I don't want to sound like old Ebeneezer Scrooge here (at least the way he is portrayed at the beginning of Dickens' iconic Christmas classic). I am not saying Bah! Humbug! Don't celebrate and don't enjoy the season. Instead, I am suggesting that we consider giving gifts that really make a difference; that we emulate old Scrooge at the end of the famous tale; by blessing others who have true need like the Cratchett family.
This is the third year Calvary will have been involved in something called the Advent Conspiracy - a program in which God's people conspire to celebrate the Advent of the Savior in a different way. What does that mean? It means focusing on the true reason for this celebration - the Worship of the Christ Child; the Son of God.
It also means spending less on frivolous gift giving and self-fulfillment during the season (for example I always give up buying expensive coffee drinks at Starbucks and other establishments and use the money I save to give to AC. Judy and I also have committed to not give each other expensive gifts but to use that money to support AC as well) Conspiring to celebrate Advent and Christmas differently also means giving more - more to causes and to people whose lives will truly be changed. At Calvary we give to provide safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and warm blankets through our efforts at Advent)Finally it means loving others sacrificially by giving ourselves, our time, our creativity and our presence.
Will you join the conspiracy? Will you be part of a not-so-covert plan to reclaim the celebration of Christmas to its original intent. Mark reminds us the "The Son of Man did not come into the World to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) Join us and find some way of re-prioritizing your Christmas and be a part of this conspiracy to celebrate the Lord's Advent by serving