If the first signs of Christmas appearing in early October cause your stomach to start churning, you’re not alone. It seems that instead of a season of peace, joy, and love, the holidays are increasingly more about burnout, exhaustion, and debt. Each year we spend more and more money on gifts that lead to less fulfillment for us as givers, certainly, but also for receivers who have to find the space to store yet another knick knack or sweater. Surely, we think, Christmas was meant for more than this.
In 2006 five church pastors from around the US decided that somewhere along the way Christmas had gotten off track, so they founded Advent Conspiracy. Advent Conspiracy is not an organization that collects or distributes money – it is simply a resource to help those who are looking for more meaningful, authentic ways to celebrate Christmas.
Locally, Neighborhood Church in Cooper-Young has been participating in Advent Conspiracy since 2007 and has seen a major transformation in the way its members experience Christmas. This year the church is asking the entire Cooper-Young community to join with it in a challenge that will make the joy of Christmas last much longer than your grandmother’s fruitcake. Read on to find out more about Advent Conspiracy and the tangible ways you can get involved.
The precepts of Advent Conspiracy are simple: spend less, give more, worship fully, and love all.
While it may seem that the current economic situation has erased any trace of excess in the average family budget, an October Gallup poll showed that US consumers still plan to spend on average $715 this Christmas, or almost $450 billion total. In contrast, the World Bank estimates that the cost of reaching basic levels of coverage in water and sanitation worldwide is about $9 billion. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out that’s only 2% of America’s Christmas budget.
So let’s say that we Cooper-Youngians are pretty average (I mean, I know we’re above average in many ways, but for the sake of argument). Two percent of our Christmas spending amounts to a little over $14. Who do you spend $14 on, and what do you get for that $14? Maybe a picture frame for your cousin? Or a Starbucks gift card for a co-worker?
Instead of those gifts this year, what if you let them know that you’re making a gift in their name to a good cause? (And we happen to have a good cause in mind for you . . . keep reading!) Do you think any of those folks won’t appreciate your sincere desire to show your love for them by showing love to the world instead of to American Express? Throw in a bit about “no thank you note required,” and you’re probably giving them the best gift of the season.
Advent Conspiracy talks about giving more in two ways. First, it suggests that the most meaningful gifts we can give are relational. Odds are, dad would rather spend a morning fishing with you than with the fanciest lure you can buy him at Bass Pro Shop. Consider how you can give of yourself – your time and talents.
But it’s just not Christmas without a few shiny packages under the tree, so for those gifts get the most bang for your buck by buying fair trade items. And we’re not talking about pity purchasing. Fair trade items have come a long way, baby – check out the “Resources” box for shopping ideas. You get to give a gift without guilt, your recipient gets a beautiful, handmade item, and someone on the other side of the world gets a chance to make a living wage doing dignified work. Win, win, and win.
Everyone worships something, even if they don’t claim any particular faith. The word “worship” itself comes from Old-English words meaning “worth-ship.” Whatever it is that we give worth to is what we worship. Not sure what you give worth to? Check your calendar and credit card statement. If you don’t like what you find there, the season of Advent (the time of expectation leading up to Christmas) is a great time to reflect on how our lives can better reflect what we truly value as worthy.
Globally, about one in eight people, or about 884 million people, don’t have ready access to safe water. Apart from the lost economic and educational opportunities in developing countries (particularly for women who spend up to five hours everyday carrying water), the global water crisis is also lethal – 1.8 million children die every year of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. That’s 5,000 children every day.
But 5,000 is a significant number for another reason – it’s also the number of dollars it will take to drill a well in Peru. Last year the Candoshi village on the Upper Amazon in northern Peru was one of many beneficiaries of donations to Living Water International, an organization that trains, consults, and equips local people to implement water solutions in their own countries. See the story of the Candoshi people at ncmidtown.com/water.
So this year Neighborhood Church is asking the people of Cooper-Young to join in a mission to provide a well to another village in Peru through a project called Cooper-Young for Clean Water (see sidebar for more info). This is where you can divert the money you’re saving when you spend less!
Five thousand dollars is a lot of money, and Neighborhood Church is pretty small. Compared to the amount we’ve raised for this cause in years past, this is a big goal. But we are confident in our community and its generous spirit. We see this project as one village helping another. One village loving another.
It’s Cooper-Young for Clean Water – water.cc/cy4water.