There have already been rumbles on the horizon. It seems that they are heard earlier and earlier each year. And as November marches to a close, the storm will grow louder and more confusing, so its best to get ready now.
Will you be ready when every TV ad tells you that love equals expensive gifts? Will you be ready when shopping centers and malls sell you an experience that promises peace and joy but never delivers? Will you be ready to follow the wise men as they leave Bethlehem, going "another way"?
It becomes increasingly difficult in our culture to separate the noise and colors of the Christmas trappings from the true heart and meaning of what we are celebrating. That's why now is a great time, the best time, to prepare our hearts to stand against all that will be coming our way very soon. I figure if the stores can roll out the Christmas trees before Halloween, we can begin our advent preparation before Thanksgiving.
I long to live differently this Christmas, to begin to really teach my kids that Jesus is what Christmas is all about and to do that with more than just words. I long to give generously and meet the real needs of others, not to increase the clutter in my already full home. And I long to find more of Jesus when there is less under the tree. It gets really hard to do that as the season progresses.
Black Friday comes and tempts me to buy lower-priced electronics that I don't need. I want my children to be happy and when I see the things that their friends get, I want my kids to have all of those things, too. I have my own wish list as well, and I love to buy things for my wife that she would not usually get for herself. And then when you kick in the familiar Christmas songs that strike up images of shopping trips and presents with bows, before I know what is happening, I am using up the money in our Christmas present budget instaed of coming in well-below what we have set aside.
So I am starting now, preparing my heart for more of Jesus and less stuff. I am listening to a podcast from Imago Dei church in Portland, which has launched The Advent Conspiracy (click here for the podcast, which has Advent Conspiracy sermons from 2006, 2007, and 2008).
And I am praying that I will captured more by the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us, than by the craftiness of the advertisers who hope to make a buck off of my sentiment and my Savior. Will you join me in living differently this Christmas?