Ginghamsburg chief storyteller and media guy Dan Bracken sports a Christmas is not your Birthday t-shirt he received as a humorous gift as his entry into this year’s “ugly Christmas sweater” competition among staff
I received an email this week from someone I have never met, Chris Thompson, who identified himself as a blogger and columnist with the Alaska Dispatch News. Chris wrote:
Dear Pastor Mike,
I'm the religion columnist for Alaska's largest daily newspaper. I recently discovered your book The Christian Wallet. As we are in Advent, would you comment why I hear so few pastors addressing the issue of money as do you?
At the time of year we should see the greatest charity to one's fellow man, we are seeing instead the greatest charity to oneself.
Chris went on to say:
The other night I attended a wonderful Advent concert, in the true spirit of Advent, at a Catholic church whose main purpose was to raise money for Catholic Social Services and its homeless shelter. Well-advertised, few came to a large church and little money was raised for a great need.
I'm trying to raise consciousness in our community about the same issues as you are but finding little receptivity. Your thoughts?
Great questions! As I explained in my email back to Chris, pointing him to Christmas is Not Your Birthday for additional insight, soft-secular Christians have turned the day in which we honor Jesus’ birth into a materialistic, gluttonous self-focused feast. Too many of our American churches have taught a “me centered” gospel. The gospel has been reduced to how God can bless you, prosper you and increase your wealth.
Not only is that a false gospel, but this consumeristic “me” focus only fuels the debt cycle that many of us are experiencing and fails to heed Jesus’ call of self-denial. One of the mantras that I continually use to remind our Ginghamsburg folks is that we are to live simply so other people can simply live. For 12 years we have challenged our families at Advent to spend as much on the “widow and orphan - the least and the lost” as they do on their own families each Christmas. Note the emphasis on “equal” amount. Is this not what Jesus meant when he said, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you?” Through this sacrifice, God has worked miracles of biblical proportions (see ginghamsburg.org/miracleoffering).
Christmas is not YOUR birthday! Let’s stop professing allegiance to Jesus while celebrating his birth with an orgy of materialism. Jesus followers are to be actively rebuilding the ancient ruins and restoring the places long devastated (Is 61:4), not increasing our debt load through our society’s obsession with me, more, bigger and better.
Mike Slaughter is the almost four-decade chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike’s call to "afflict the comfortable" challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. His newest book is Down to Earth (Abingdon Press; 2016), a paradigm-shifting, four-week Advent study with Ginghamsburg Executive Pastor of Discipleship Rachel Billups. A Down to Earth DVD, Leader Guide, Youth Study, Children’s Leader Guide and seasonal devotional are also available.