Although it doesn’t technically begin until Sunday, today – Black Friday – is the first day of Advent for me. Ever since I began to take part in The Advent Conspiracy, the day after Thanksgiving is when I begin my time of prayer, reflection, and waiting for Christmas. The Advent Conspiracy is a spiritual practice created by five pastors in 2006 to shift the Christmas narrative from consumption and spending to taking up the habits of spending less, giving more, worshiping fully and loving all.
Buy fewer things, but also buy less bullshit. We live in the era of fake news, click bait, and a 24 hour media culture that encourages us to consume information already tailored to our viewpoint and from a worldview exactly like our own. This is as true on the left and blue as it is on the right and red. Be more critical with your information consumption, stay away from Fox News and Occupy Democrats. Seek out a couple of news and information sources with an editorial slant that is the opposite of your own. Seek information from some international sources such as the BBC and Al Jazeera. Here’s a list of various news sources of the left and right. And a similar visual representation:
…but Give More
Give more of yourself, your gifts and talents, your time, and your simple presence to others. Spend more time with family and friends. But also get more involved with your community, take part in your local government, participate in the events of local organizations, intentionally spend time doing things that put you in contact with people who are not like you. In the days after the election, I was talking to a person I know from local community work and they said of the election results, “I can’t understand how it happened.” I asked if they had attended the last town meeting. “No,” they said. “Neither did I,” I sighed, “and that’s how it happened.”
Spending more time with people who are different from you is one of the best ways to build community across differences. It gives you a chance to understand others and gives them a chance to better understand you. It will also put you in the position where you may be required to speak up against hate and bigotry. Seeking to better understand others does not mean allowing hurtful words or actions to go unchecked, but building relationships across differences may allow your defense of inclusion, respect, and diversity to be heard.
Whether you are religious or not, worship more. If you are religious, commit to regular attendance at your faith community and commit to taking up or renewing a prayer practice or spiritual practice. If you are not religious or are an atheist, recommit to your highest values and start or renew a practice that ties your more deeply to them. None of us walk our talk or put our money where our heart is without some deep foundation in our core. Any good we do has to begin with taking good care of ourselves and grounding ourselves in practices that renew and feed our spirit.
And yes, Christmas is coming and in our culture the pull to participate in the corporate, commercialized feeding frenzy of consumption is strong. So instead of going to the box store or increasing Amazon’s bottom line, purchase something from a local artisan or maker or make that purchase from a locally owned business if at all possible.
If you spend less this year, perhaps take some of it and give it to a good cause close to your heart that needs financial help. The people who started the Advent Conspiracy took up the cause of clean water. They note that Americans spend $450,000,000,000 (that’s 450 BILLION dollars) EACH YEAR on Christmas and yet it would only cost $20 BILLION each year to provide every single person on earth with clean, accessible drinking water.
Join the conspiracy. Drop out of the consumption culture and create meaningful community by spending less but giving more.