'Advent Preview' Provides Churchwide Focus: Can Christmas Really Change the World?
Before summer even comes to a close, retailers begin a full-speed marketing push that leads Americans to spend countless hours and in excess of $450 billion annually on Christmas shopping alone. Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston is getting a head start this year by de-emphasizing the avid consumerism and re-emphasizing the concepts behind a movement called, “The Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Really Change the World?” For the next few weeks, Sunday school classes will study corresponding material that has a parallel focus of each worship service leading up to Advent.
· October 30 – Spend Less
· November 6 – Give More
· November 13 – Love All
"We are actually doing this series before the Advent season," says Rev. Tommy Williams, senior pastor of Westbury UMC, "That way, when the season comes, we’ll simply live it." The ‘Conspiracy’ sermon series and study curriculum is based on content from a book called The Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay and Greg Holder. Get video and print resources for your congregation at www.adventconspiracy.org.
The idea for Westbury’s church wide study came from a Sunday School class that discovered the material last year and thought everyone else would benefit from this unique perspective. “Conspiracy implies hiding, and as a culture we’ve taken a season that should be about the birth of Jesus Christ and we’ve hidden it behind shopping, traffic jams and to do lists,” says Vincent Sanders. The ‘conspiracy’ material challenges individuals to buy less, and consider giving some of the savings away. “This year my family will focus on quality rather than quantity as we look to be more involved in giving than receiving.”
AddsCarolyn Chatfield, ““When you watch the videos and do the lessons you find yourself saying…OH, this is really good. We began talking with our daughters about this in October, asking what would we want to do differently at the Chatfield house? We decided to use the savings to donate to a ministry geared to helping free slaves.”
“We do church wide themes like this every once in a while,” says Kelsey Johnson of the Communications office. “Over the summer, we encouraged the congregation to read Follow Me to Freedom by John Perkins and Shane Claiborne in preparation for their visit to our church for World Communion Sunday.
The book raises awareness of the commercialization behind the true Advent and issues interesting challenges.
“This series helps you think about things you can cut out of your life to worship more fully and experience more joy,” says Donna Reid “When you do this study together as a group or a church you feel the support to make changes away from the way you would typically approach Christmas.”
We'll be doing an Advent series based on the lectionary readings, "O Come Let Us Adore Him." On December 4, Lawrence Young, district superintendent of the Central South District, will be preaching. For more information, see www.westburyumc.org.
ADVENTure Night builds anticipation for the season
Less than two dozen attended the first year in 2008, but Westbury UMC is preparing for 100 or more to attend their third annual ADVENTure Night -- a special family-focused event hosted at the church on the first Sunday of Advent from 5-7 p.m.
The first hour offers the opportunity for participants of all ages to make 10 different Christmas crafts, play Wii games, nibble on popcorn, and cocoa in “anticipation” of the second hour. “After dark, families take turns riding in one of two covered wagons lit up with Christmas lights and pulled behind a truck.
Each wagon has a karaoke machine so that riders can sing Christmas carols through the neighborhood,” says Jana Kincannon, Children's Ministry Director. “Having an Advent Christmas craft night has been part of our tradition for at least 30 years,” but we modernized it a few years ago to include caroling,” she adds. ADVENTure has been a great forum for bringing visitors to the church campus. Church members and Day School families invite friends and other families via personal word of mouth and Westbury advertises in the local paper.
The spiritual significance includes the reading of an appropriate “get ready” Scripture in a child-friendly version at the beginning of the evening. Explains Kincannon, “Then the emphasis for the entire event is placed on our faith in God and why He sent His Son. Families are encouraged to celebrate each day of Advent with anticipation for Jesus to come.”