Conspiracy 2009 part 3
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 13, 2009
This morning, we’re
continuing with our message series called “Advent Conspiracy”, as we
explore ways we can turn away from Christmas consumerism and turn
toward compassion… how we can overcome the expectation to spend spend
spend on gifts that are going to go unused and instead give in more
Two weeks ago, we looked at the people involved
in that first Christmas when Jesus was born. And we saw that for Mary
and Joseph, for the shepherds, for the Wise Men, for Mary’s relatives
Elizabeth and Zechariah… their response to the coming of Jesus was to
worship. How? By being obedient to God, by placing Him above their own
self-interest, by expressing gratitude and adoration, and ultimately by
giving Him all of themselves. That’s what Christmas was initially all
Last week, we saw how we’ve turned Christmas
into a time of spending, to the tune of half a trillion dollars here in
North America. And we talked about how it’s so easy for us to be pulled
into this vortex of holiday shopping. We equate the cost of our gift
with the love we have for someone. And so we empty our bank accounts
and even go deep into debt all to express our love.
we discovered is that our love is NOT measured by the monetary value of
our gift. And so we really put the push on last week to spend less.
Push back against the consumerism of the season, resist the expectation
to shop to the extreme, and bring your spending down to a more
And really, that brings us to today. Because
once you get your spending under control and it’s at a level you can
afford, I want to encourage you to pull back even a little bit more…
maybe even just one gift less… so that you can give in more meaningful
ways. I want you to spend less so you can give more.
while we’ve already warned against over-reaching and over-spending and
over-committing ourselves to credit, we’re not saying to go all “bah
humbug” on Christmas. Because being generous and giving gifts is a good
thing. So we’re not trying to do away with all that. What we’re trying
to do is find some balance. We’re trying to keep it in perspective.
We’re trying to remember that Christmas is really about encountering
that baby in the manger, not about buying Snuggies, ShamWows, and Slap
Yes, we want to be generous. But we don’t want to be
sucked in by the shopping frenzy. We want to discourage consumerism,
while at the same time encourage generosity.
But why? Why should
I be generous? At Christmas time or any time, why should I give
generously? Well, lots of reasons. Let me give you four. The first one
Should Be Generous Because…
Jesus modeled generosity to me.
me take you to the Christmas story. Probably not the version you read
to your kids, it’s not one of the traditional passages from Matthew or
from Luke, but it’s still about Christmas. It’s found in John chapter 1…
John 1:1,10-12, 14 (NLT)
the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the
Word was God. … He came into the very world he created, but the world
didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected
him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to
become children of God. … So the Word became human and made his home
among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have
seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
Jesus was God. He had all the rights and privileges of being God. But
yet He saw our need and was moved to do something about it. He knew
that because of our sinfulness, our relationship with God was beyond
our ability to repair. We couldn’t do enough, we couldn’t be good
enough to mend our relationship with Him. We had rebelled against God,
had rejected Him and chosen to go our own way, to the point that even
if we wanted to return to Him we couldn’t.
Jesus saw all this,
He knew we were lost in our sinfulness, so how did He respond? He gave
up all the comforts and benefits of being God, in order to enter into
His own Creation and offer us forgiveness so we could be made right
with God again.
2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT)
You know the
generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for
your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you
And in so doing, He set an example of generosity for us to
follow. I need to be generous because Jesus has been generous to me. We
serve a generous God, and He expects His followers to be generous, too.
A second reason I need to be generous is…
Being generous actually enriches my own life.
couple years ago, there was an article in the Washington Post
describing some research that had been conducted by neuroscientists who
were trying to understand how we are affected by our concerned for the
welfare of others [altruism]. So what they did was they asked
volunteers to “think about a scenario involving either donating a sum
of money to charity or keeping it for themselves.” And what they
discovered is this: “when the volunteers placed the interests of others
before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the
brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex.”
ask me to expand on that. But what we can learn from this is that God
hardwired us to be generous. He made us in such a way that when we
really do become concerned with other people and place their needs
above our own, we experience pleasure. It feels good. It satisfies a
morality within us and enriches our lives.
past summer, there was an article in the New York Times Magazine that
described a new initiative being undertaken the Hyatt Hotel chain. It
was a new customer relations program that the Hyatt CEO Mark
Hoplamazian described simply as “random acts of generosity.” And
basically, the program empowers Hyatt employees to offer the occasional
freebie to their customers. For example, you might spend some time in
their spa, go to pay for it, and the employee may say, “You know what?
This time it’s on us.”
But why would they do something like
this? Aren’t they in the business of making money? Well, yes they are,
and years of behavioral science research convinced them that being
generous in random ways like that will generate a spirit of gratitude
among their customers and will ultimately increase their sales growth.
So basically, what they discovered is that being generous was good for
But that’s nothing new. About 800 years ago, Saint Francis of Assisi
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi
And really, Saint Francis was only talking from the Scripture written
thousands of years earlier…
Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT)
Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will
bless you in everything you do.
if you are generous, you yourself will benefit from that generosity.
Basically, what goes around comes around. If you are generous, then
you’re going to experience some benefit from that generosity.
I’ve been blessed so I can give.
all familiar with Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”. You’ve probably
read the book or seen one of the hundreds of adaptations. Here’s
something I learned this week: the phrase “Merry Christmas” was made
popular by this book. And in case you’re interested, there’s a new
version of it playing at Empire Theatres right now in 3D motion capture
format. I haven’t seen it yet myself, but I’ve heard good things. The
only warning that I’ve heard is that it can be a little scary for
really young children. But otherwise, you may want to check it out.
we all know what the story’s about, don’t we? It’s about the selfish,
miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by four ghosts on Christmas
Eve and, as a result, finding redemption. He turns from selfishness to
selflessness. He turns from being miserly to being generous. He came to
realize that he had wealth… that there were others around him not so
fortunate… and he had to opportunity to use his wealth to enrich their
And that’s something the Bible teaches, too. We who have plenty, have
plenty so we give to those who don’t.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT)
will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great
harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so
that you can always be generous.
And even if you don’t think you
have plenty, even if you consider yourself to be poor, you can still be
generous out of what you have. In w Corinthians 8, Paul talked about
how the Macedonian Christians were generous even in the midst of their
poverty. And remember the widow who only had a couple coins left to her
name? Yet she gave what she had generously. Or how about the widow who
took care of the prophet Elijah? She and her son were facing
starvation, but yet she fed Elijah with the little flour and oil she
had left. Now, God blessed her and she never ran out of food, but she
didn’t know that was going to happen. But she was still generous out of
what she had at her disposal.
So regardless of what your
financial situation is right now, I’m pretty sure you’re better off
than they were. You have what you have so you can be generous.
I’m moved with compassion for the poor.
talked over the past couple weeks about how this theme of Advent
Conspiracy has become a movement throughout North America and beyond.
It started in 2006 with just five churches, and now there are tens of
thousands of Christ-followers who are participating. There are at least
three churches right here in Charlottetown. Well, three of the guys who
started this whole movement to replace consumerism with compassion have
gotten together and written a book called, of all things, Advent
“At Christmas, one of the things that should
distinguish a Christ-follower is a love that reaches out to the hungry
and thirsty and sick and imprisoned. Such giving is an act of true
worship. There is a close connection between how we treat each other
and how we treat God. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says that whatever we
do for one of the least of his brothers and sisters, we do for him.”
~ Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder
So we want to be moved by compassion to reach out and care for the
hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned.
1 John 3:17-18 (NLT)
someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in
need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear
children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the
truth by our actions.
Because the truth is, Jesus expects His
followers to care for the poor and the marginalized, the disadvantaged
and the destitute. Our compassion for the poor should move us to
action. It should move us to acts of generosity. It shouldn’t be guilt
or obligation; it should be compassion. I don’t want you to be generous
because you have to be; I want you to be generous because you want to
Okay, so what does all this mean? How can I give
generously? Well, the truth is, it’s going to be different for each
person. So as I finish up, let me just give you two principles to help
you discover how you can be generous…
Can I Give Generously?
For those in my life… I can explore ways to give of myself.
what Jesus gave, isn’t it? He gave Himself. He didn’t just buy some
meaningless trinkets; He didn’t just select a gift at random out of the
Sears Catalog; He gave Himself, freely and generously.
John 1:14 (NLT)
the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of
unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory
of the Father’s one and only Son.
Jesus gave Himself. He
invested Himself in others. And really, isn’t that the best gift you
can give to anyone? The gift of yourself?
We’ve talked before
about how the most meaningful gift you ever received is probably not
the most expensive. So instead of just throwing money away at gifts
that aren’t going to be valued, why not look for ways to really give of
yourself? Sure, go ahead and spend some money, but do it wisely. Use it
to create memories.
And the truth is, this can take a bit of
work. It can take some creativity. It can require some time. But I
think what you’ll discover is a much more meaningful Christmas.
through this series, I’ve included a list in your notes of some
suggestions for gifts you can give. And at the bottom of that page,
there’s a website you can go to and find a bunch of other ideas…
Maybe something homemade, maybe an
outing together, maybe an intimate date night, maybe working on a hobby
together, maybe an uninterrupted afternoon together, maybe a trip
around the area to look at some of the decorations and lights… there
are lots of ideas some that require money and lots that don’t. So see
what you can come up with.
That’s how you can give generously to
the people that are part of your life, your friends, your family, the
people that you love. But I think there’s another way to be generous,
and it should be part of Christmas for every one of us.
For the poor, the marginalized, the needy… I can find ways to invest my
time, my talent, my treasure.
saw our need, and He responded to that need by entering into His
Creation. When you see the needs around you and around the world, how
do you respond? Can you give generously, too?
There’s a verse in the Old Testament book of Isaiah that talks about
being intentional when it comes to being generous. It says…
Isaiah 32:8 (NLT)
But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in
you plan to be generous? Now, everybody can give something. And often,
it’s something financial. But you can also give of your time or give of
your talents. In Acts chapter 3, there’s a crippled man who was begging
for money from Peter and John. But they didn’t have any money. So look
at what they said…
Acts 3:6 (NLT)
But Peter said, “I don’t
have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the
name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
really don’t have much money you can give. But what can you give? Can
you give some time to the Soup Kitchen? Can you offer some talents at
Habitat for Humanity? Can you partner with Harvest House or with Open
Door Ministries to help the less fortunate here in our city?
if you can give financially, and I think most of us can, how can you
give? There are a lot of possibilities. One that we’re encouraging you
to do here is to give money toward providing clean water to people who
don’t currently have access to it. We’re going to receive an offering
on Christmas Eve that will go to World Hope to be used for repairing
and maintaining wells in Sierra Leone. Shera and I have talked about
how we’re spending less on each other and on family so that we can
redirect some money into this project.
I even had some cards
done up that you can give to people saying, “In your honour, I’ve given
some money toward providing a source of clean water for people who
don’t currently have it.” You can pick up some of these cards today if
you’d like, and anytime between now and Christmas Eve if you’d like to
make a donation toward this project, you can put it in one of these
Christmas Gift envelopes available at the offering box.
SHOW VIDEO – AC interviews 4:39