advent conspiracy: love all

Sunday, December 23, 2012

AC_Love_WORDWhen Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined before. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. This is the conspiracy three churches began a few years ago, and has since grown to an international movement where thousands of churches have raised millions of dollars to love others in life-changing ways. So, this isn’t a theory based on good intentions. It’s a movement that’s saving lives. This is our new tradition. One that can truly change the world.
(text from adventconspiracy.org)

This is the week that comes easiest and yet hardest at the same time. Everyone likes to talk about love at Christmas. It’s rewarding to fill up our Christmas food baskets, to make kits for the foster kids who come into care in our county, to put a check in the bucket at church to buy water filters for families in Haiti. It’s harder to actually DO the loving. To spend time with the poor and marginalized, go into their homes, sit on their stale smoke couches. It’s much harder to share life with the truly needy, to allow their pain to touch your life in a very personal way, to invite them into your homes for a meal or to live. It’s extremely difficult to give up your prejudices, your stereotypes, your judgment for people who don’t seem to deserve yet another chance, yet another check. Love requires sacrifice, and boy, is that not something we like to talk about this time of year. (or ever)

If there is anything Wendell and I want to pass along to our children above all else, it’s how to live a life a sacrifice. To consider others better than themselves. To never be content to just ‘concentrate on our own family’ or ‘put ourselves first’. Occasionally in life those things need to happen, I know. But I want it to feel uncomfortable. The true sweet spot of where they live their lives, the place where they feel most at home, most fulfilled, most alive – I want it to be when they spend their lives poured out for others. That’s my heart’s prayer for my kids.

It’s weird for me to spend the holidays with ‘just family’. (It so happens that this year, we’ve spent several holidays that way, and I can’t say that I care for it all that much.) My parents raised us with an open table, an open home, and open hearts. Their continued persistence to invite the immigrants, the orphans, the marginalized, and the lonely (and I mean all of those quite literally) into our home to share our table, share our family has influenced my life in such a tangible way.

Right now, our children need stability above nearly all else, and even as I feel disappointed that the consequences of that means that we spend much more time at home by ourselves than I would prefer, I realize that we are still opening our home. We share our family and our lives with a little boy who needs us desperately right now. I hope that these days are the memories that our children take away from their childhood. How we sacrificed ‘normal’ family life. How we skipped Christmas parties, spent countless hours in the car driving to and from visits, and focused our energies and love on the children that came to share our home over the years. There’s loss in this kind of life, yes, but there is so much reward.

AC_Love_ICONFor I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Love all. It’s what Christmas is truly all about.

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This year, we focused most of our giving on things close to home: we made Christmas food baskets for people we know, for classmates and friends. We put together kits for kids who are entering foster care in our county because we know those kids. Those kids are our kids. Even our far-away giving is to a charity in Haiti, a country that has touched and engaged several members of our church in a very personal way. We really wanted our kids to feel connected – not to view this kind of stuff as charity. It’s not. This is obedience. We are the poor, the naked, the suffering – just the same as the people we gave to this year. I never want my children to think there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. It’s all of us, together.

What are some of the ways that you are “loving all” this year? I’d love to hear ideas for the future!

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