Pt. 1 - Worship Fully
Pt. 2 - Spend Less
Please note - the end of this video is incomplete. We were unable to record Pastor Charity’s final thoughts and closing remarks. Because of this, we have attached a written conclusion from her. We encourage you to read it below!
One way I’m spending less this year is by adhering to the 4 Gift Rule. This year, the boys will receive something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. We included a ‘bonus gift’ for a child in need. We’ve sponsored a little boy, about the same age as Levi, who has an incarcerated parent. This was especially fun for our family because both Levi and this young boy love dinosaurs. So, we spent lots of time finding the perfect gift for our new friend.
I’ve even gone as far as to delegate one of the 4 items to my sister. She’s offered to gift them what they need, leaving me with only 3 gifts to purchase per boy!
For us, this year will be a contrast to years past. As most parents of small children know, we can go out and spend all kinds of money on gifts, knowing that in most cases they’ll end up having more fun playing with the box than the toy!
Knowing this, we can make a conscious choice to be intentional when we buy. We can make the choice to buy locally, supporting our community. We can choose to make more educated, ethical purchases. We can even find ways to shop fair trade! Community United Methodist Church, right here in Columbia, has a fair trade market in their building. It’s a wonderful place to make an intentional purchase!
The Christmas Conspiracy challenges us to balance our desires with real needs within our communities. This year, we’re giving 100% of our Christmas Eve offering to four local agencies that serve people with real, everyday needs. These agencies are: Love Inc., True North, Wilkes Blvd. UMC, and The Voluntary Action Center. As we commit to spend less, we can simultaneously prepare to give more.
Our scripture today is simple. We cannot worship both God and money. It’s no secret that in some of the most impoverished countries and neighborhoods, people seem to have more faith and hope, more peace, than many of us who have little need to be met.
Don’t get me wrong - money isn’t bad. The call is to prioritize our relationship with God over money. We are called to have a singular focus. One where Jesus is the frame and filter through which we decide how to spend the money we’re blessed with.
As we look to the Christmas story, I count only one place where we hear of treasure - when the Magi gift Jesus with many things, gold included.
Spending money is not a high priority in the Christmas story, yet we’ve made it central to our modern interpretation of Jesus’ birth.
And yet, we do observe spending in the story.
Mary spends time in conversation with the angel Gabriel.
Joseph spends energy thinking and praying on what to do once he discovers Mary is with child - and he isn’t the father.
The Wise Men spent time and many, many miles traveling to see Jesus.
And Simeon, one who many might call a minor character in the Christmas story, spends his entire life looking for, and anticipating, the Christ child.
Luke 2: 25-31
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
Simeon spent a lifetime awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. And it’s from there that we read of Jesus, who spends his life with us, for us, in us, and among us - from the creche to the cross.
There is no gift we can buy, no amount of money we can spend, that will ever amount to the treasure we have in Christ Jesus. Amen.