NOTE: During the next four weeks, I will be participating in Advent Conspiracy. It is an idea that is made up of the following four pillars. 1. Worship Fully 2. Spend Less 3. Give More 4. Love all. I will be pairing these with the traditional themes of the four weeks of advent which are 1. Hope 2. Peace 3. Joy 4. Love. You can learn more about Advent Conspiracy at http://www.adventconspiracy.org
Over this holiday season, I have been working a retail job at a local mall. The busyness has started. Yesterday was arguably the busiest day of them all- Black Friday.
As a store associate, it is my job to generate sales and interact with guests. We see all sorts of characters in our store. Some of them are more than willing to shoot the breeze with you and are friendly and courteous. On the other hand, many blatantly ignore you, are snarky and sample products that aren’t actually samples.
When I try to talk to these people it just feels like I am in their way. The sacredness of a human to human interaction is replaced with busyness and accomplishing a task.
There is a blackness about consumerism that grips our hearts and tells us there is nothing more important than acquiring stuff. New product releases, better bargains and earlier store hours all promise us something they can’t really provide. That is what is so dark about consumerism; it has no real hope to offer us. Instead, it leaves us insatiable year after year.
In the book of Luke, Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to His teachings while Martha is too busy preparing things to pay Him any attention. For Martha, spending any time interacting with Jesus was in the way of the stuff she was trying to get done.
This is what Jesus says during the interaction,
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (See Luke 10:38-42)
It seems like getting together with others this time of year is nearly impossible. “It’s the holidays, I’m busy” becomes our mantra for everything from not going to the gym to forgetting to call someone back. Does it also keep us from fully engaging in the story of Jesus’ birth? Do we place our hope in the ‘many things’ at the cost of fully worshipping Jesus, the one thing we really need?
This isn’t about bashing Christmas. It’s not about foregoing gifts or even not getting a great Black Friday deal. This is about checking where our hope lies and fully engaging in the advent season. In the stories of His birth, we learn that Jesus is called Immanuel which means ‘God with us.’ God is always with us, but are we always present to His presence or are we distracted by busyness?
I want to encourage you this first week of advent, even in the midst of the busyness, to practice worshipping fully the one who is our real hope. Here are some practical ideas:
1.Have intentional conversations-Talk about the nativity story with others. What’s your favorite part? Your favorite line? Share with someone why Jesus gives you hope. Let your conversations reflect the real hope this time of year is about.
2.Value people above stuff- Be friendly and courteous to sales associates. Don’t go into a store just to buy the thing, get in and get out. What’s more important, another person or another thing?
3.Make intentional time to worship-
A. Read and re-read the story of Jesus’ coming. Follow along with an advent devotional. You can find a good one here: http://amzn.com/0764816284
B. Fully engage in the worship experience at church service. Try closing your eyes or lifting your hands during worship. Actually use the altar when the pastor says it’s open for prayer. Give to the offering and ultimately to sharing the hope of Jesus with others, offer to light the advent candle. Worship fully.