Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Purpose of Contentment, A Thought...

Last week I was preaching on "Spend Less" as part of our "advent conspiracy" series. The key biblical verse came out of 1 Timothy 6: "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (v. 8). Here's the problem: as soon as I landed on contentment, I didn't stay there, but I moved into generosity. 

That bothered me (and also made finding space for this Sunday's theme, "Give More" a bit more difficult). I've been wondering, Couldn't I just be content with contentment? 

Well, yes. I've written numerous pages and taught or preached countless times on the importance of gratitude and how it leads us to contentment and happiness. I could have certainly camped out in a familiar wood.

But I also realized that I'm particularly concerned at Christmas, that we would be self-centered even in our contentment, that it would become something about soothing my soul, finding my inner peace. And so I, following 1 Timothy 6, I inadvertently moved on to directing those with money "to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (v. 18). 

So I missed my target last Sunday and ended up shooting at another bullseye. But as long as I'm there, I'll say this: I hope that, this Christmas, we find both contentment with what we have and generosity toward those who don't have much at all. The amazing truth is that there we will discover deep peace and happiness because I'm sure that's where Jesus will be right there with us.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Who or What Do We Worship this Season?

This Christmas season our church has joined with the Advent Conspiracy, in which many congregations throughout the US are moving away from the consumerism of this season, "Xmas," and come back to Jesus. There are four simple emphases: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. My hope is that this will bring us back to what Christmas is really about.

The book of Matthew describes the coming of the "wise men" from the East so simply, "On coming to the house, [the wise men] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh" (2:10-11, I added the bold). 

I don't know if the point comes across as directly as it does to me, but the gifts the wise men brought gifts to Jesus. They didn't give things to one another. Nonetheless, that's not what Xmas has become: we are consumed so often with what we want and what others want. Who's going to get the new iPod, or the robotic hamster, the soft leather shoes, or the Hugo Boss tie? What if we stopped and asked, "What does Jesus want me to give this Christmas to him?"

In a world, where over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day and where the United States spends $450 billion dollars a year on Christmas gifts, I think giving to Jesus means spending less on ourselves and more on helping the poor and the oppressed.  

So I'm interested: Do you have any suggestions for how to give to what Jesus cares about this Christmas?