Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy’
©November 24, 2013 by Steve Mickelson
BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:
Responsive Reading #631 (The Incarnate Christ – John 1); Prayer
Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Let us pray…
Today’s message is entitled: Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy might beg for an explanation of terms. The first term is rather straight forward.
Next Sunday, we will observe the first Sunday of Advent and on that occasion we shall reflect upon the significance of the approaching birth of Jesus and how the birth of our Lord changed the world. But what is meant by Advent and what does light candle at represent?
Let us check our Wiki bits definition of Advent Sunday:
Advent Sunday (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches. It also marks the start of the season of Advent. In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist churches the celebrant wears violet-coloured or blue vestments on this day, and the first violet or blue Advent candle is lit at Mass. In the Church of Sweden, however, the Liturgical colour is white: the motivation is that the day is a joyful feast (the colour is changed to blue, the traditional colour for Advent in Scandinavia, or—if the church does not possess blue vestments—violet after 6 p.m.).
Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King. It can fall on any date between 27 November and 3 December. When Christmas Day is a Monday, Advent Sunday will fall on its latest possible date. Note that it is also possible to compute the date of Advent Sunday by adding three days to the date of the last Thursday of November.
But as Christians observe the Advent of Christmas, it is easy to get distracted from the reason for the season, which is the observance of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and instead drawn into what some refer to as the Advent Conspiracy. Having just observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, one might think that the Advent Conspiracy is some sort of plot involving the historical event of the Nativity. No so. There is no assassin on a grassy knoll. Though King Herod did plot a conspiracy, using information from the Magi, to locate and kill the baby Jesus, which God foiled. But that is a topic for another Sunday. But we do have a conspiracy in which the world diminishes the significance of the birth of Jesus.
Here is an excerpt from interviews with the three founders of the Advent Conspiracy from foxnews.com:
Advent Conspiracy ( By Lauren Green Published December 18, 2009 FoxNews.com)
The Advent Conspiracy movement asks Christians to resist the temptation to spend on extravagant gifts and instead redirect their money to helping the needy.
Greg Holder, who pastors a church in St. Louis, Missouri. is one of the group’s three founding ministers. He says Advent Conspiracy is about having Christians — not retailers — tell the story of Christmas.
“We’re not asking you to join this movement out of guilt or distrust or anger,” he said. “We want you to know that this is not about saying no to something. This is about saying yes to something better.
“So for us it’s re-entering the story, it’s rediscovering the story, that’s where the ‘give more’ comes in.”
Using a video posted on YouTube to market the movement, the Advent Conspiracy has spread to 1,700 of churches in at least 17 countries on four continents, and can even be found on the social networking site Facebook, where nearly 45,000 people have signed up to support the movement.
Houston Pastor Chris Seay, another of the movement’s co-founders, says he has no interest in forcing retailers to say “Merry Christmas” to shoppers in place of the non-sectarian “Happy Holidays.”
“I don’t want to invoke the name of Christ at Wal-Mart — it’s not the most sacred place,” he said. “I would rather you say Happy Holidays … especially when we’re running over little old ladies to get a cheaper television” on Black Friday.
Weary shoppers, laden with packages, see his point.
“It would be nice for (people) to learn to do for others, because that is the true spirit of Christmas and that does make you the most happy,” said New Yorker Candice Wylie. “Not receiving, but giving.”
“It’s about being together (with) family and really what’s important instead of just getting caught up in the commercialization of the whole thing and the franticness of Christmas and trying to spend, spend, spend,” added shopper Lorraine Cona.
Holder and Seay say they are not trying to bash retailers. It’s about rethinking Christmas.
Pastor Patrick McKinley, the movement’s third founder, emphasizes that it’s up the churches to exercise their creativity to let Scripture tell the true Christmas story so “we don’t have to sit back to let consumerism tell the story.”
So what are we to do to avoid becoming a co-conspirator of the Advent Conspiracy? The answer may be found on the Advent Conspiracy Web Page, as posted in the introduction to the movement:
“Worship More, Spend Less, Give Presence, Love All Are you tired of how consumerism has stolen the soul of Christmas? This year, take a stand! Join the groundswell of Christ-followers who are choosing to make Christmas what it should be—a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth that enriches our hearts and the world around us, not a retail circus that depletes our pocketbooks and defeats our spirits. Advent Conspiracy shows you how to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple but powerful, countercultural concepts: Worship Fully—because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus! Spend Less—and free your resources for things that truly matter. Give More—of your presence: your hands, your words, your time, your heart. Love All—the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, and the sick in ways that make a difference. Find out how to have a Christmas worth remembering, not dreading. Christmas can still change the world when you, like Jesus, give what matters most—your presence.
The Advent Conspiracy is an international movement centered on bringing a deeper meaning to Christmas during the Christian season of advent that immediately precedes it. The movement is characterized by its four founding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. The movement’s message is to avoid getting caught up in the consumerism surrounding the holiday in order to celebrate Christmas more fully.
In 2006, Pastors Greg Holder, Chris Seay, Rick McKinley and others founded the organization to rebel against the hyperconsumerism to which they found many Christians fall victim. They proposed to spend less on gifts and give more to the poor. Today, Advent Conspiracy consists of approximately 1500 member churches and organizations around the globe.”
I first heard about the Advent Conspiracy in a graphic attachment to an email sent to me by Pastor Don Boyd several years ago. We see a good graphic summary of the movement on the back page of today’s bulletin:
Advent Conspiracy Summarized:
|Worship Fully Christmas marks the moment where God’s promise was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that deserves our full attention and praise—a celebration!|
|Spend Less By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.|
|Give More The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone is yourself. And nobody models this better than Jesus.|
|Love All By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who are in need.|
If they had lived today, the Pharisees might be viewed as participants of the Advent Conspiracy, based upon their view of our Lord and the Scriptures which was both worldly and judgmental in nature, leaving them figuratively and spiritually in the dark, as we read in John’s gospel, John 8:12-20 (ESV):
I Am the Light of the World
8 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
Footnotes: a. John 8:16 Some manuscripts he
But those who reside in the darkness are not just the Pharisees, all who live a life of sin, wickedness and evil, as we read in John 3:19-21 (ESV):
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Our path from darkness is illuminated by Jesus Christ who died for all the evil, wicked, sinful actions and thoughts. Christ’s path brings us from the darkness of condemnation and judgment to the illumination of His light and truth, by way of faith in the Lord.
This makes us a member of God’s elect as we read in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV):
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
But as Christians, we celebrate the approaching light by lighting candles for each of the Sunday’s prior to Christmas, as well a candle on Christmas Day. The colour of these candles may vary, but if you look on the back of the bulletin, you may see what these candles represent:
Why We Light Candles At Advent:
The candles are lit in the order of: Purple, purple, pink, purple, and finally, white. This is what each of the candles mean:
1 – Purple –The Candle of Hope – This candle reminds us that God keeps His promises. He promised a Savior, and He sent one.
2 – Purple – The Candle of Preparation – This candle reminds us to be prepared to receive the Lord.
3 – Pink – The Candle of Joy – This candle remembers the multitudes of angels that joyfully announced the birth of Christ.
4 – Purple – The Candle of Love– This candle represents the love of God. It was out of His incredible love that God sent His only Son Jesus.
5 – White – The Christ Candle – When this candle is lit on Christmas Eve, it symbolizes Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
But each candle reminds us of the different aspects of our Lord and how we may become free of the condemnation of sin by walking in the light, which is the path set before us by him:
1 John 1:5-7 (ESV) Walking in the Light
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
By lighting candles, and by prayer and thanksgiving, we remind ourselves of the great commission assigned to us until the time of the second advent, when the Lord will return:
Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark
Benediction – (Psalm 4:6b): Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!