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God is inviting us deeper into the Christmas story.

This is the first Sunday in Advent, a time of preparation, getting ready for the celebration of our Lord's birth. So often we rush on th

rough this quiet season, focussed on what is to come, and not on the wonders that are here...

Are you ready for Christmas yet? Have you bought all your presents? What’s Santa going to bring you this year? I don’t know what to buy for Grandpa! I’ve still not written all my Christmas cards!

These are the kind of greetings that we are going to hear more and more of as December moves on, and Christmas Day draws nearer, possibly with the tone of voice becoming more and more panicky as the month progresses. We become so focussed on getting everything done, ready for a “perfect” Christmas – whatever that might be – that we forget to take time to focus on the wonder of this quiet time of preparation, leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. We may be materially prepared by the time the 25th rolls round, but are we spiritually prepared?

I know that I never manage to take time to pause, to prepare my heart for the celebration of the coming of God into this world. I always get caught up in the whirl and maelstrom of getting ready for Christmas, but never quite getting ready for Christ.

That’s why this year I’m making an effort, and I’m going to follow The Advent Conspiracy. This came about in 2006 when three American Pastors were lamenting how they’d come to the end of an Advent season exhausted and sensing they’d missed it – the awe-inducing, soul-satisfying mystery of the incarnation.

Like many of us, drowning in a sea of financial debt and endless lists of gifts to buy there was the annual struggle to find the connection between those Christmas to-do lists and the story of Jesus’ birth. The time of year when focusing on Christ should be the easiest was often the hardest. Somehow, this had become the new normal.

So, these three, Chris Seay, Greg Holder, and Rick McKinley came up with the Advent Conspiracy movement, with four tenets, or catchphrases, to help themselves, their families and congregations to fully prepare for the joy of the celebration of the incarnation. Worship fully, spend less, Give more, Love all

Firstly, Worship fully. They say: Nearly every character in the Christmas story that encountered our King responded in the same way: worship. Let’s make the conscious effort to reorient our hearts toward Christ. Christmas began with worship; may it end with worship.

Spend less: In our hearts we know mindless consumption is not the way to celebrate Jesus. But spending less does not mean spending nothing. Rather we will thoughtfully evaluate what companies and causes we support through our purchases.

Give more: The best gifts celebrate a relationship and most often they require our time and energy. Relational giving means that we think about the other person–who they are and what they care about. We focus more on giving our undivided presence and less on a pile of presents under the tree.

Love all: Christmas is a chance to move closer to those in crisis. We will love others as Jesus has loved us. The poor and hurting of our world can be reached by God through the way we choose to celebrate Christmas.

I think that this is an ideal way to prepare for the birth of our Lord, who came into this world to show us Love, real love, incarnate love, sacrificial love. There is a website to read more, and to find different resources for families and individuals to use.

But however you choose to do it, whether it’s using this particular platform, or one of the many other resources that there are, this Advent, I encourage you to take time out of the busyness of the preparations, to pause for a moment each day and to think how we can keep to those four tenets and as we worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all, something begins to happen that is greater than any single person, church, or denomination.

As the Church, we are telling the story of Jesus to the watching world.

God is not finished with our world and He is inviting us deeper into the Christmas story.

Lord God, only you can see into our hearts and know that under all the busy-ness of our lives there is a deep longing to make this Advent one that welcomes you more deeply into our hearts. We desire the warmth of your love and we search for your Light in the midst of the darkness.

Help us, this Advent, to learn what it means to worship you fully, to spend less money but to give more of ourselves to others, and to truly love all. Inspire us, give us the strength and courage to step away from the crowds and to surrender ourselves to you.

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