Posts Tagged 'Advent Conspiracy'

Advent Conspiracy: Love All

Advent Conspiracy: Love All Sermon Audio Here

Luke 2:1-16
One of our STATIC teens posted an interesting picture the other day. I thought it was worth sharing.
Manger... or More?
Allow me to challenge you: look closer. This could be a simple manger scene. I’m sure that was the original intent. But when you zoom in a bit without considering context, you very well might end up seeing something VERY different! Don’t get distracted: there’s more to this than meets the eye!
To Love All Requires Us To Look Carefully:

See The Setting Of The Season ~ Luke 2:1-7
This story begins in humility. It is a humble night, in an out of the way town. A young family traveling at the beck and call of political decrees. Immediately on the surface of the story it seems political power plays will determine where Jesus will be born. Caesar utters a royal edict for taxation purposes that pushes everyone back to their hometown. So even though it’s probably not ideal to travel on a donkey when your 9 months pregnant, Mary and Joseph set off on the trip home.

Comprehend The Context of Christmas ~ Micah 5:2
We could consider that it well might have been Joseph’s family home. The town is anywhere from 300 to 1000 people in size. The census would gather the whole extended family into town and they would all stay at the family house. This family is in the line of David, a respectable family.
So why would the phrase “there was no room” be the answer given to family? Consider that Joseph’s family was probably ashamed of his then pregnant girlfriend. Mary and Joseph weren’t married yet and here she is about to give birth. This would be, in their time, shameful. This is another way of looking at the context of why the king will be born into a manger.
Again, what headline are you going to pay attention to? The knocked up fiancé? Or the Virgin birth?

Spot The Shepherds Among Us ~ Luke 2:8-16
During this time period, shepherds are some of the most lowly of characters; nobodies, often living on the margins of society. But God loves shepherds, these caretakers, watching over helpless animals. Every day, every night, tending, making sure the sheep are cared for. It’s detailed work in that you have be attentive to the needs of the animals.
And so it’s fitting, when Gods son is born, the only ones told are shepherds. Not the rulers, not the politicians, not the financiers, the CEO’s. Nope, the guys out working the field get the news. The host of angels comes to them, this humble group of shepherds.

Confirm The Choice To Love
Don’t judge Christmas by how it looks currently in our culture, not all is as it seems. Christmas is a deeply subversive story about a young family navigating political policies, and family shame. It’s about workers on the edge of society, in overlooked towns. It also happens to be story of how the world was saved.
This Christmas the invitation is to scratch beneath the surface of the headlines, to pay attention to God’s story and what he is doing. To see glory in humility. God loves to work in the margins with those who have been overlooked. Its why we have chosen to spend less on the flash of Christmas and decided to love those who have been neglected. To go to the places that don’t grab the headlines, to see the needs in our very own city, and pay attention to the people here. To do the hard work of caring and looking to the needs of others.

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Advent Conspiracy: Give More

Advent Conspiracy: Give More Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 1:18-25

I love Christmas, but increasingly I don’t love trying to explain it to people who confused the real thing with “ChrisMyth”. You know “ChrisMyth” – where the magical Coca-Cola corporate seasonal mascot observes all your marketing data – ahem “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” – and either brings you toys or coal depending on how much you’re willing to spend – cough “whether you’ve been good, so be good for goodness’ sake”

Real Christmas Requires Real Gifts:


Realize Life Intrudes
~ Matt. 1:18-19

  • It begins with a couple who are betrothed. Betrothal is a little more serious than engagement. This couple’s name is Mary and Joseph and they had not slept together yet. This is pre-wedding. And Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant.
  • Now, finding out that your soon to be wife is pregnant without your help would be grounds for very severe punishment in that time. Joseph could really ruin her life. What Joseph does decide to do is, divorce her quietly and not make a scene.
  • Now if you found out your fiancé was pregnant with another man’s baby, what would you say? Joseph says to himself, ok, I’m not going to get crazy, I’m not going to shame her. I’m just going to divorce her very quietly.
  • So the first part of God’s story to save humanity starts in the thought to divorce. Sounds like real life to me.

Remember, God Interrupts ~ Matt. 1:20-25

  • 20/23 Angel speaks to Joseph in a dream: Don’t worry; God has a plan
  • Heb. 1:1-2 – God speaks in many ways; today, through His Son
  • In the past God spoke in many ways, but now he has finally spoken with Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Gods revelation. So, we have this reality of God with us, but in the form of a baby. This should draw some serious reflection out of us. Cheryl Lawrie reflected this way:

we are tempted to think
that this is out of character for you
a momentary fragility
showing your tender side
that once the Christmas carols are finished
and the decorations are put away,
you’ll get back to power and might.
but in your completeness –
this one chance we get to see flesh and bone
put onto the theory –
this is you:
fragile,
impossibly vulnerable
and at the mercy of human response.

  • Fascinating really. God puts himself at the mercy of a young girl,
    and a new husband. God enters life as a human. God with us.
  • That is how the story starts; no reindeer, no snowmen, no thunder, no pillars of fire, just a thought of divorce, a dream, and a baby, who is God in the flesh, come to be with us, Immanuel.
  • And so yes it is a simple story, but it is a story full of wonder.

We get to ask the question: what would it look like if God came to earth as a man?
And the answer we get is Jesus.
The wonder of the incarnation (God coming to earth in flesh) communicates so much. But at its core it is answering a very simple and deep question, which is:
God where are you?
And His answer is: Here with you. In this life. I’m not
some far off being, I am here among you.

I know what it’s like to be you. In your humanity, in your joy, in your suffering.
I know what it’s like to live this life. And I want to be with you. In this Life.
It’s a question we all longed to have answered. God are you with me?
And God answers very deeply, yes I am with you.
God longs for life to be lived with him, not necessarily, under him,
or for him, or above him, but with. In relationship with.
It can be very simple and very powerful when you are fully
present to someone, it fulfills a deep desire of our heart.

I remember a time when I was 16 years old. Mom had passed away, and it was just Dad and I in the house with a single bathroom. Dad had been sporting a Regular Army haircut for as long as I’d known him, but after my Mom died, he decided he’d let it grow out a bit. One morning we were both running a bit behind schedule, and we ended up standing side by side coming our hair. We looked at each other and just cracked up: it was so ODD. At that moment, we were just a couple of guys who were a bit frustrated that our hair wouldn’t quite do what we wanted. A strange moment to be “fully present”, but I wouldn’t trade that memory for the world.

When you’re content to just be with another person, entering into their world, being with them it touches something deep in our heart. It satisfies a deep longing.

And so when it comes to the actual story of Christmas one of the best ways to celebrate is to simply give the gift of your presence. Be with someone.
This year we are trying to spend less on presents and give more of our selves.

It’s the story of What God did, he came to be with us, and so we celebrate, by giving relational gifts.

Practice Give More

Specifically, during this season of Advent, we thought it would be a great way to remember “God with us” by trying to be more intentionally present — First to ourselves and then to other people.

Technology is making it easier and easier to be present but not be with. We’re halfway present, being present with our body but not with our whole relational selves.

It’s not unusual to be in a crowd full of people and for everyone to be distracted, in their own world, on their phone. An artist named Antoine Geiger has an installation called “Sur-Fake” that captured this really well. It’s a series of photographs which shows peoples faces being stretched and blurred into the screens of the devices they hold.

He says, basically this technology is pulling us out of the moment, out of relationship and even away from our own thoughts, instead of being quiet with ourselves and thinking and working something out in thought and prayer, we just distract ourselves with a phone.

So not to get all anti phone, but we think it would be a great way to celebrate God with us by trying to be more with ourselves and others by doing a phone fast this week. Temporarily, turn off your social media apps. Have a spot where you put your phone as soon as you walk into the house. Do whatever you have to do to eliminate the distraction.

Each time you reach for your phone, instead spend a moment in reflection and prayer.

Or, ask your friends or spouse or kids a question, or play, cook, talk, run, just don’t be alone with your phone.

Try and be — with.

Use the time to brainstorm the relational gifts you can give this Christmas as you spend less and give more.

Maybe for you it’s not the phone, maybe it’s the TV, or work that doesn’t need to be done right this moment, but I invite you to stop, and celebrate God with us, by being with each other and being with him.

Very simply celebrate the simple story of a God who is with us, by being with others this Christmas.

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 2:1-12

Jesus has been born and here come the three wise men, actually there was probably more than three. Who were these wise men? They were most likely pagan philosopher, astrologist, astronomer types who are from the priestly or ruling class of their eastern culture. They’ve come into Jerusalem, looking for the one who has been born King of the Jews…

What Do Wise People Treasure?

Wisdom, Gained In God’s Light ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Wisdom, Available To Those Who Seek ~ Matthew 2:3-8

  • 3 all Jerusalem disturbed because they misunderstand the signs: they focus on worldly power
  • 4/6 God tells the answer: Ruler will be a Shepherd (not a warrior)
  • 7/8 WARNING: don’t forget to seek for hidden motives!

Wisdom Treasures Worship ~ Matthew 2:9-12

  • Foolishness Worships Treasure: Herod was focused on earthly power and wealth;
  • these wise men willingly sacrificed their wealth in worship of the King of Heaven

If you don’t feel like the “right kind of Christian” you’re in good company. The right kind of Christian in the story, is on the wrong side of history. The religious establishment sided with Herod and his empire and missed Jesus.
The story of Christmas invites us to seek the truth, to be discerning when religion and power begin to mingle. To not be satisfied with mere religious goods and services, but to look in the out of the way places to see what God is doing.
This year we invite you ignore the signs and symbols of the empire.

  • We invite you to not give into the advertisers and corporation
    that really don’t want to worship but will use the language
    of Christmas to lure us into spending more.
  • We invite you to spend less on thoughtless gifts, to give more
    meaningful gifts, gifts of our time and presence.
  • We believe that as we do this, as we celebrate Christmas we can be a part of God still changing the world.
  • May you recognize that having it all is not having it all.
  • And so may your truth seeking lead you to Jesus, and may you be
    captured in wonder around this different kind of king who is grace
    and truth. May you take great joy, that the center of the world
    is a God who comes as a baby to bring peace on earth.

    Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully

    Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully Sermon Audio Here

    Luke 1:46-50

    NOTE: This sermon is from AdventConspiracy.org. I’ve adapted it for my own preaching style, but the content is not mine. I’m grateful to the good people at Advent Conspiracy for helping the Church look at Advent in a different way.

    To help us make sense of the Scripture, remember: Mary is young, poor, pregnant out of wedlock, hiding in an obscure hill town which is currently occupied by a foreign power. She is living in utter obscurity. She has no reason to be beside herself with joy towards God. She is of humble estate and yet here she is… flooded with joy, over flowing with gratitude, so much that she burst into song as her spirit soars. WHY?

    Why “Worship Fully”?

    Because God Sees Us ~ Luke 1:46-48

    • When you know the Divine sees you, your deepest inner person, your soul is touched, and you can’t help but Worship Fully. You can say things like Mary said; “from now on, from this moment on, people will call me blessed. Holy is his name.”
    • The reason for this worshipful response is that the souls deepest longing is to be seen and known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
    • => a little kid: “hey hey hey hey hey!” look at them, and they’re good

    We Long To Be Seen ~ Genesis 16:13

    • She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
    • It’s why celebrity is so intoxicating. These people are seen so we think they must matter. I need to be seen to matter. On top of this need to be seen, our culture can breed isolation which just compounds our loneliness and can feed our despair at not being seen.

    In the book Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the author Dave Eggers captured this sentiment early in the days of reality TV, as his main character writes in to MTV to be on “The Real World.”

    Dear Producers,
    Something is radiating deep within me and it must be transmitted or
    I will implode and the world will suffer a great loss, unawares. Epic
    are the proportions of my soul, yet without a scope who cares who
    I am? This is why I must but must be one of the inhabitants of MTV’s
    “Real World.” Only there, burning brightly into a million dazzled
    eyes, will my as yet uncontoured self assume the beauteous forms
    that are not just its own, but an entire market niche’s, due.
    I am a Kirk Cameron-Kurt Cobain figure, roguishly quirky, dandified
    but down to earth, kooky but comprehensible; denizen of the growing penumbra between alternative and mainstream culture; angsty prophet of the already bygone apocalypse, yet upbeat, stylish and sexy!
    Oh MTV, take me, make me, wake me from my formless slumbers
    and place me in the dreamy Real World of target marketing.

    • God sees Mary not because of her looks, her intellect, her status, her importance. God looks and sees her in her humble estate, her obscurity.

    When We Know God Sees Us, We Worship ~ Luke 1:49-50

    • After she sees and experiences this for her own life she says, trust in God, “from generation to generation”.
    • 51-55: she focuses on not what she has done, or even that she is seen. Her focus goes back to what GOD has done!


    This is the story of Christmas, that God has seen us, and that He sees those in need. This is why we as a church have chosen to celebrate Christmas this year by worshipping fully the God who sees and loves us and in response, see and love those that are in need around us and around the world.


    Pastor Ed Backell

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