So the Advent experiment that Imago Dei and four other churches are engaging in is this: What if we took what we normally spend on Christmas gifts and instead give it away to those who need it most? What if we gave oursleves relationally to our loved ones, as Jesus gave himself relationally to us, rather than give each other material gifts that we don't even remember the following the year?
You can already hear the "devil's advocates" (more on that term later) saying, "But the wise men gave gifts!"
Yes. To JESUS! Not to each other. In his sermon Rick McKinley illustrates the re-imagined magi scene like this:
(First wise man) "Oh look at the baby." (Pause. Turn to Bill.) "Bill, here's some frankincense for you."
(Second wise man, aka Bill) "Oh thank you, my wife will love this. And here's some mirh for you."
People make things.
Other people convince us we need them.
We buy them.
"That's how the empire works," says McKinley.
McKinely goes on to say, "We can almost hear the economists responding to this crazy idea with, 'Well that won’t be very good for the empire.'
And if we actually take our faith seriously and start redistributing our wealth instead of buying junk for each other, we might hear the economists say, 'We should probably get rid of the baby and keep Santa, that would be better for the empire.'”
Giving and receiving IS part of the advent story. God is giving himself and we are receiving. We don’t serve a God who just gives us stuff. He's not like one of those busy, detached dads who doesn't have a relationship with his kids so he gives them a big check at Christmas to try to make up for it.
This experiment isn't about not giving gifts. It's about trying to immitate Christ by giving ourselves as gifts to others. It's about learning how to do this. It's about trying to point to the Christmas story in the way that we give.
The average American spends $300 – $1100 on Christmas presents each year. Imago Dei and the four other churches that are partnering together have figured out that if two-thirds of their congregations take on this experiment (based on the low end of the average mentioned above) they would collect 1 million dollars! 1 million dollars of our wealth to redistribute to those who need it most. (Click here to see where the $1 million will go.)
And this is only 5 churches! What if every church participated in this experiment? What if we all decided that this just might be a gift that would bless and honor the Baby more than giving stuff to each other?
(Most of this post was taken from notes from Rick McKinley's Advent sermon.)