Advent Conspiracy 2009 part 1
Worship Fully
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 29, 2009


The big idea behind the Advent Conspiracy is to WORSHIP fully, SPEND LESS on gifts, GIVE more presence, and LOVE like Jesus.

[Worship Fully]
It 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 means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

[Spend Less]
Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean.  We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts.  But 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.

[Give More]
God’s 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.
Time is 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, right? 

[Love All]
When 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 opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most.

[AC] You are free to: 
worship | live | breathe | give | laugh | love | celebrate | conspire

Advent Conspiracy Christmas Gift Guide

Here area a few ideas to get your own creative juices flowing!

The gift of time
Create 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 come, be intentional about really connecting while you’re together. 

Here 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
Make some hot chocolate, bundle up and take a walk through the Christmas lit streets in your neighbourhood or downtown with friends or family.

Give creative coupons
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 know how)
House projects to help them build that shed, clean the garage, steam the carpets, clean closets, etc.

Give a certificate for a day together doing something that person is passionate about:
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 guitars together
A day trip with your camera’s for the photographer friend
A day hike together

Things 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

Ask yourself, “What can I do?” and give of yourself.
Ask, ‘What do they like to do?” and make time to do it with them.

Side Note:
This 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). 
Don’t create a whole separate set of pressures, worry & guilt by feeling like you can’t spend a dime.  Just step out of consumerism, be thoughtful and enjoy the celebration.

Visit: to give (& receive) ideas from people around the world. 


Well, 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?

Actually, 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…

worshipping fully,
spending less,
giving more,
and loving all.

Worship Fully
This 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.

Spend Less
That 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?

Give More
Not 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 a lifetime.
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.

Love All
After 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.
Or in you bulletin today, there’s information about participating in the Salvation Army’s Kettle program. Maybe you can take part in that.
Oh, 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 box.

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.
Now, 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…


The 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 worship fully?

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.

What is 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.

“Understand that 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

Okay, 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.”

And 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…

How Worship Is a Way of Life:

1.    Worship is humble obedience to God.

There 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)
As 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…

2.    Worship is placing God above our own self-interest.

People 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.

For 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 Joseph worshipped.

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?

Well, Elizabeth 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…

3.    Worship is showing gratitude to God.

Specifically, 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.

Of 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 liking?

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.”

4.    Worship is expressing heartfelt adoration to God.

How 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 express adoration.

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.

How about those shepherds? After the angel told them about Jesus being born, what did they do? They went to find this newborn baby.

I 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 celebrated.

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.

5.    Worship is letting others know the great things God has done.

That’s 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)
They 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.

They gave 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.

6.    Worship is giving God the best that you have.

God 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.

The 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)
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

That’s 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 said…

“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.



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