Conspiracy 2009 part 1
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 29, 2009
idea behind the Advent Conspiracy is to WORSHIP fully, SPEND LESS on
gifts, GIVE more presence, and LOVE like Jesus.
starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach
God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put
down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where
love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath.
It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent
entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to
you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we
mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts.
consider this: Canadians spend an average of $35 billion a year every
Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no
other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift
out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? Consider
buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one. Sounds
insigniﬁcant, yet many who have taken this small sacriﬁce have
experienced something nothing less than a miracle: They have been more
available to celebrate Christ during the season. Some ideas for
inexpensive/meaningful gifts are on the next page.
gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why
we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our
friends and family in the most memorable ways possible.
the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it
can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the
next family heirloom. Time to write mom or dad a letter. Time to take
the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad
Christmas carols. Time to make your love visible through relational
giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big,
Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, he became
poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He
played to the margins. Our world has millions of individuals &
families in the margins. We are called to love in these
margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the
join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most.
You are free to:
worship | live | breathe | give | laugh | love | celebrate | conspire
Conspiracy Christmas Gift Guide
Here area a few ideas to get your own creative juices ﬂowing!
gift of time
a fun certiﬁcate stating the gift of time you want to give; for
example, help with a project around the house or help with
errands. Bring coffee, tea or lunch & ﬂowers when you
be intentional about really connecting while you’re together.
are some ideas for spending time together
Wrap popcorn, gourmet root beer and a classic DVD for a movie night
with a friend
Host Hockey Night in Canada and make homemade pizzas
Wrap 2 copies of a used classic book to read with a friend
some hot chocolate, bundle up and take a walk through the Christmas lit
streets in your neighbourhood or downtown with friends or family.
Babysitting for your exhausted friend (sister-in-law, etc)
Yard work for an elderly person in your life
Massage/manicure/pedicure for that person who has been working a bit
too hard lately
Road trip to take an out-of-town adventure with your child
Date for Coffee/Tea to get together and talk theology and about how God
is moving in your lives
Car wash or car maintenance to change the oil in a friend’s car (if you
House projects to help them build that shed, clean the garage, steam
the carpets, clean closets, etc.
certiﬁcate for a day together doing something that person is passionate
A new bat and a trip to the batting cage
A new golf club and a trip to the driving range
A new guitar strap and a trip to the music store to play with the
A day trip with your camera’s for the photographer friend
A day hike together
to make with the kids:
Simple scrapbook with pictures of time with the person you’re giving it
to, pictures of the kids for far-away-family.
A home ‘published’ story, written and illustrated by the kids (the time
you spend making it with the kids will be priceless)
A Video/DVD of your life these days for long-distance friends/family
yourself, “What can I do?” and give of yourself.
‘What do they like to do?” and make time to do it with
isn’t about creating a bunch of new rules to be legalistic about
Christmas. It’s OK to spend some money (sometimes creating
something cool can be more expensive - beware).
a whole separate set of pressures, worry & guilt by feeling
you can’t spend a dime. Just step out of consumerism, be
thoughtful and enjoy the celebration.
www.rethinkingchristmas.com to give (& receive) ideas from
people around the world.
it’s officially here. Oh, there have been signs along the way. All the
way back in September, you could feel the shift. The Christmas season
was coming. And then at Halloween, it became full blown. Stores put out
all their stock, you started getting things in the mail, we started
handing out shoe boxes… you just knew that the Christmas season was
upon us. And then on Remembrance Day, all the decorations went up here
at the Mall and the music in the hallway changed.
And now, here we are, the first Sunday of Advent, and the Christmas
season has officially begun. Anyone tired of it already?
I wouldn’t be that surprised if you were tired of it. I mean, it starts
so early, and so many Christmas parties are now held in November, and
the pressure just escalates to buy and buy and buy… I could understand
how you could be tired of it already.
Do you remember when
Christmas wasn’t about buying all this junk and cramming your schedules
full of all these obligations and trying to out-decorate the person
next door? Neither do I. That’s what Christmas has become. But it’s
sure not how it started.
That’s why today we’re starting a new
series called the Advent Conspiracy. Actually, it’s not so much of a
series as it is a movement. For the past few years, since 2006,
churches across North America have been joining this movement called
Advent Conspiracy as a way to enter into the story and experience
Christmas the way it was meant to be experienced. How? By…
and loving all.
is what we’re trying to get back to. The shepherds that first Christmas
worshipped Jesus. The Wise Men traveled a great distance in order to
worship Jesus. Even Mary and Joseph… they worshipped Jesus. Christmas
is a celebration of the day when God became flesh… when Jesus was born
as a baby… when we could worship Him face to face. And all the hustle
and bustle of the season today just tries to take us away from all
that. It distracts us from encountering the child in the manger. It
distracts us from recognizing the significance of His birth. So we want
to get back to that. We want to Worship Fully. And we’re going to do
that by learning to spend less, give more, and love all.
sounds good, doesn’t it? But it’s really not all that easy. Because the
pressure’s on. We’ve come to equate the value of our gift with the
depth of our love. The more we love someone, the bigger gift we’re
supposed to get, right? But I want to give you permission this year to
spend less. You don’t have to buy gifts that you’re still going to be
paying for this time next year.
We buy stuff because we’re supposed
to buy stuff but we don’t know what to buy so we buy stuff that doesn’t
matter and ends up collecting dust. So spend less this year, even if
it’s just one gift less.
And I know what you’re thinking? “But they
won’t understand. They’re expecting a lot of gifts. I have to spend the
money. How else will they know how much I care?” Well, for one thing,
they probably feel the same way as you do. They’re probably sick of all
the consumerism associated with Christmas, too, except they feel
trapped.. just like you do. So explain it to them.
And besides, the
people that you spend the most money on are probably in this room this
morning. So let me do it for you. “You’re getting less this year. Not
because they don’t love you, but because Christmas isn’t about going
into debt up to your ears. It’s about encountering Jesus. So find other
ways to celebrate the season.” There. Okay?
more stuff, but more of yourself. Not more presents, but more presence.
Jesus gave himself to you and to me. He gave His presence. He gave His
time. He shared life with us. So go and share life with one another.
Create memories together. Don’t buy gifts that going to be forgotten by
January; create experiences together that are going to be remember for
In your notes, this morning, you actually see a list of
some suggestions. Maybe you’ll want to do one of those; or maybe you’ll
want to go off the board and do something completely different.
all, isn’t love the backdrop for everything that happened that first
Christmas? God loved the world so much that He gave His Son. Jesus
loved us so much that He gave Himself. It was His love for us that
motivated Jesus to come to earth… to love the poor, the forgotten, the
marginalized. And it’s His love working through us that can motivate
us, as well. What are you going to do this Christmas to make a
difference in this world? Beyond the circle of your own family and
friends, how can you love all?
Perhaps you can volunteer some time at the Soup Kitchen.
in you bulletin today, there’s information about participating in the
Salvation Army’s Kettle program. Maybe you can take part in that.
and remember the money you saved by spending less? How about investing
at least some of what you saved into something that really matters?
This Christmas Eve, we’re going to be receiving an offering that will
go toward providing clean water to a community that needs it. Close to
a billion people in our world do not have access to clean water, and
that leads to disease, to poverty, and even to death. Every 15 seconds
a child dies because they don’t have access to a source of clean water.
Well, Jesus came to offer what He called “Living Water.” He was talking
about offering the Holy Spirit and salvation, but this Christmas we’re
going to offer actual water. $250 will repair and maintain a well in
Sierra Leone. So we’re going to receive an offering to go entirely
toward providing a source of clean water. If you’re not able to be here
Christmas Eve and would like to give toward this offering anyway, you
can just pick up one of the offering envelopes at the Offering Box,
write Clean Water on the envelope, and put your gift in the offering
And if you’re still worried about the whole spending less
thing, worried that the person won’t understand… well, in a couple
weeks I’ll have some cards here that you can use to give to people
explaining “in your honour, I gave this much money in order to provide
a clean source of water for people who don’t have it right now.”
Okay? So that’s what this series is about.
as I mentioned, this is a movement that started back in 2006. That
year, there were just five churches involved. The next year,
Take a look at this video…
VIDEO – ADVENT CONSPIRACY PROMO
Advent Conspiracy. It began with worship; it begins with worship. We’re
going to talk more about the spending, the giving, the loving in future
weeks. Today, we’re starting with the worshipping. What does it mean to
And this is important, because not only does it
begin with worship but it ends with worship. The whole reason to
realign how we’ve come to experience the advent season is so we can
worship Jesus without all the distractions. And the end result of
removing the distractions is that we can worship fully.
worship, anyway? That’s a pretty valid question, isn’t it? We’re
talking about it, so we’d better be straight on what we’re talking
about. What is worship?
A lot of people think that worship is
the music we sing in church. And yeah, that’s an expression of worship.
But it’s not what worship is. It’s not one thing we do at a particular
time each week. Even here at Sunrise, even though we call this Sunday
service our Worship Celebration, that doesn’t mean that worship can
only happen during this hour in this room.
No, worship is not
confined to a particular practice in a particular place at a particular
time. It’s a way of life. It’s not just a kind of music we sing, it’s
not just specific words we say, it’s not just the things we do… it’s
all of that and more. It’s a way of life.
worship is more than just the songs we sing or the time in church that
those songs are sung. Worship is an attitude and a lifestyle. Don't
limit yourself by believing that it's just the music. Live it. This is
what true worship is all about.”
~ Mike Janke, “Is This Worship?” September 5, 2001
so what we’re going to do this morning is look at some of the people
involved in that first Christmas. We’re going to see how they
worshipped, and so learn what it means for us to worship. How worship
can move beyond an hour on Sunday to become a way of life. And we’re
going to start with Mary.
Mary was just a teenager when the
angel Gabriel appeared to here and told her that she would give birth
to Jesus. She didn’t know how that was possible, she had never slept
around, she was engaged to be married to a guy named Joseph, but they
had never been together in that way. But the angel assured her that
nothing is impossible with God, and that she would indeed become
pregnant and would give birth to Jesus, the Messiah that the Israelites
had been waiting for for hundreds of years.
How did Mary
respond? Did she say, “Whoa, hold on. I’ve got plans. I’m getting ready
for my prom. I’ve got a dress that fits and I don’t want to ruin that.
What am I going to tell my parents? I’m going to be ridiculed. I’ll be
the laughing stock of the community. Plus I’m engaged! He’s not going
to understand. Go make somebody else pregnant instead.” Is that how she
responded? No, she responded by worshipping God out of her gratitude
for being chosen for such an honour. And she even sang a song. You ever
just make up a song? Well, that’s what she did…
Luke 1:46-49 (NLT)
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.”
that simple song really declared her willingness to be part of God’s
plan. It signaled her readiness to be used by God. In fact, it
expressed her gratitude that God would even choose her in the first
place. So from Mary, we learn that…
Worship Is a Way of Life:
Worship is humble obedience to God.
are two words we don’t like a whole lot: Humble and Obedient. But
that’s exactly how Mary expressed worship to God. She wasn’t all
boastful and proud; she was just glad to be part of what God was doing.
How are you doing on the humble obedience scale? Do you respond
to God by saying, “God, whatever you want from me, that’s what I’m
going to give.” Or do you try to negotiate with Him… “You want this;
how about if I give you this instead.” Or, “I’ll do what you want, but
what’s in it for me?” True worship doesn’t put conditions on God.
Worship is humble obedience.
So how about Joseph? How did
Joseph respond to all this? I mean, Joseph was engaged to Mary, he was
a righteous man and an honourable man, he knew he wasn’t the father,
but he also knew that unless he accused Mary of cheating on him that
everyone would assume he was the father. And that would have been
absolutely devastating to his reputation, especially in the society
they were living in. So what did he do?
Matthew 1:20-21, 24 (NLT)
he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary
as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy
Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he
will save his people from their sins.” …
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took
Mary as his wife.
Despite the hit that his reputation would take, Joseph did what God
instructed. So from this, we learn that…
Worship is placing God above our own self-interest.
were going to be talking about him behind his back, they were going to
be gossiping and tearing him down, his carpentry business was probably
going to suffer as a result, but he still chose to be part of God’s
plan. That for him was worship. Placing God above his own self-interest.
you, worshipping God by placing Him about your own self-interest may
mean that you miss out on that promotion because you’re not willing to
compromise your ethics. It may mean that you defend your faith even in
the face of ridicule. It may mean you use your vacation tome to serve
the poor. It means that however God leads you, you follow even if it
means there’s a personal cost of some kind. That is worship. That’s how
And how about Mary’s relatives,
Elizabeth and Zechariah? Liz and Zech were getting along in years and
didn’t have any kids of their own. And in their society, that was
actually a sign of disgrace and humiliation. Well, even before Gabriel
appeared to Mary, he appeared to Zechariah and told him that he and
Elizabeth would have a son. And their son… who we know as John the
Baptist… would prepare the way for Jesus.
Zechariah didn’t even
believe the angel at first. I don’t know about you, but if a big
glowing honkin’ angel appears before me, I think I’m going to believe
what he has to say. But Zechariah doubted at first. But what the angel
promised came true. And how did they respond?
worshipped God because He had taken away her disgrace… the disgrace of
not having kids. And Zechariah worshipped because he knew his son would
be preparing the way for Jesus.
Luke 1:68-70 (NLT)
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.”
So here you see that…
Worship is showing gratitude to God.
Zechariah was expressing gratitude for God’s salvation. For centuries,
the Messiah – the Saviour – had been promised. And now it was becoming
a reality. God was about to become flesh in order to save the world. So
Zechariah expressed gratitude as a form of worship.
You and I…
we have a lot to be grateful for. So why is it that so often we like to
complain? Especially at this time of year, why do so many people become
sour? Everyone’s in a rush, pushing their way through the crowds, and
they just get all stressed out. I passed people here at the Mall this
week… and I’d smile at them, I’d say “hi”, and they’d just go straight
on by, not even acknowledging my existence. I double checked to make
sure my cloaking device wasn’t turned on by accident, and then I
realized that people just get so stressed out at this time of year.
Do you know one of the best cures for stress? Gratitude. Expressing
thanks. Recognizing what you have to be thankful for.
course, in the States this week they celebrated their Thanksgiving. We
did it, of course, at the right time back in October. But they just had
theirs this week, which theoretically is a good time, too. I mean, if
gratitude can help alleviate stress, what better time than heading into
the Christmas season?
Problem is, Thanksgiving is just for one
day. And then they’re right back at it. The Friday after Thanksgiving
is known as what? Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.
One day to be grateful, and then it’s right back into the stress and
consumerism of the season.
Instead of getting all caught up in
the busyness and the stress, how about holding on to a spirit of
gratitude? Instead of complaining that the turkey’s dry, be grateful
that you even have a full plate. Instead of complaining that Aunt
Bertha smells funny, be thankful that your olfactory system is working
properly. Instead of reserving gratitude for one day a year, how about
being thankful each and every day? How about thanking God for all your
blessings instead of complaining about everything that’s not to your
Let’s move on. How about that crowd of angels
who appeared to the shepherds working the midnight shift on the night
Jesus was born? What did the angels do? Even the angels worshipped.
They understood the great thing that had just happened. They understood
that the Creator of the Universe had just entered into His own creation
in order to save it. And so after delivering the message to the
shepherds, they couldn’t help but worship.
Luke 2:14 (NLT)
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom
God is pleased.”
Worship is expressing heartfelt adoration to God.
do you do this? Well, yes, music is one way. We sing to express worship
to God. If you’re gifted in some of the arts, you can use those talents
to express adoration and worship God. You can talk with Him through
prayer and express your love that way. If you really adore someone,
you’re going to do things to make them happy… not because you have to
but because you want to. So you can serve God and do things for Him to
I’ve been amazed over the past couple of
years how many of my conversations end up being about my kids. I adore
my kids, and I can’t help but talk about them. So I think expressing
adoration for God includes letting others know about your love for Him.
There are lots of ways to express adoration as a form of worship.
about those shepherds? After the angel told them about Jesus being
born, what did they do? They went to find this newborn baby.
don’t know how many of you use Twitter. Personally, I’ve avoided it so
far. But it’s really become quite the thing. Well, one of the most
famous users of Twitter is Shaquille O’Neal. Earlier this year, he used
Twitter to say where he was having lunch, and hundreds of people showed
up to see him.
Well, these angels were God’s form of Twitter.
They told the shepherds where the baby could be found, and so they
decided they’d go and find him. And when they found Him, they
Luke 2:17, 20 (NLT)
After seeing him, the
shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said
to them about this child… The shepherds went back to their flocks,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
Worship is letting others know the great things God has done.
the “Go Tell It On the Mountain” part of Christmas. Worship is not
something that’s hidden… And it can be expressed as simply as pointing
others toward God, too.
And then there were the Wise
Men. They were astrologers or astronomers of some kind, living
someplace to the east of Israel, and they had been studying the stars.
So when a new star appeared in the sky, they knew something special had
happened. And the star seemed to be leading them, so they followed it.
And it took a while, but eventually it led them straight to where Jesus
was. So what did they do then?
Matthew 2:11 (NLT)
entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they
bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests
and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
gifts to Jesus. And they weren’t just trinkets they picked up at the
Dollar Store. No, they gave the very best they had. Gold… Frankincense…
Myrrh… that was how they worshipped.
Worship is giving God the best that you have.
deserves the best of your time, your talent, your treasure. He doesn’t
want the leftovers. He doesn’t want to just fill empty slots in your
schedule until something better comes along, He wants and deserves the
best. He wants to have priority in how you spend your days… in where
you focus your talents… and where you direct your money.
word “worship” is a contraction of the Od English words “worth-ship.”
It’s acknowledging that God is worthy of the very best you have to
offer, and then offering it to Him. Anything less than that isn’t
really worship at all.
So you can see that worship permeated
the first Christmas. It wasn’t an afterthought, it wasn’t something you
fit into the schedule between shopping trips, work parties, and family
get-togethers. Worship was central.
And it wasn’t confined to
just one or two ways of expression. It was a way of life. And that’s
what it can be for you and for me, too. That’s what worship is meant to
be. That’s made clear in the New Testament book of Romans, chapter 12
where Paul writes…
Romans 12:1 (The Message)
everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and
walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
what worship is. It’s honouring God in your everyday life. It’s giving
Him the best that you have. It’s giving Him yourself. Rick Warren has
“Bringing pleasure to God is called ‘worship’. Anything
you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship… This is the
secret to a lifestyle of worship; doing everything as unto the Lord.
Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God, and perform it with
an awareness of his presence.”
~ Rick Warren
So let’s get
back to worship this Christmas. Instead of getting caught up in all the
craziness of the season, let’s remain acutely aware that Christmas is
really about Jesus… It’s about God being born as a baby… it’s about us
experience His presence every day.
And we’re going to explore ways to do just that over the next few weeks.