Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Materialism

Rebel (and spend less), 11 December 2011

Big Idea: one way to make this Christmas season different is to spend less and give more.

We are in the most chaotic season of the year, businesses are doing whatever possible to lure us into their stores or onto their websites, credit cards are being used more than snow blowers in Alaska, and calendars are filled with parties and special events. So much for, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

We continue
Advent Conspiracy. The conspiracy is to do the season differently. The celebration of a king’s birth, lying in an animal food trough on a silent night has become the most stress-filled, debt-producing, narcissistic season of the year. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Each week we are focusing on one word. Last week it was
worship. We said to do the season differently we need to worship more, focusing our attention on the one who is worthy and deserving of our affections and attentions—Jesus Christ.

Today’s word is
rebel. Does this surprise you? What comes to mind when you think of rebel? I don’t think most people in our culture would think of Jesus-followers as being rebels, yet for centuries, many have led radical, counter-cultural lives. The context of Jesus’ birth itself was filled with rebels.

Rebellion is part of our tradition as followers of Jesus. I often talk about the importance of context when reading the Bible, and the Advent narratives are no exception.

We talk a lot about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but one of the dominant characters in the story is Herod. Herod was a nasty man. Actually, there several people named Herod as there were several names Caesar or the Pope. Herod was a governor appointed by the Roman Empire. He began his rule at age 25. He was obviously a friend of Rome and extremely insecure about his empire. He killed three of his sons, a wife, his mother-in-law, siblings, and even one of his key advisors. His empire was built on power and might. Even though he wasn’t Jewish, he held the title “king of the Jews.”

He was an impressive man. He built stadiums and coliseums. He built a palace on a huge hill that he had built even higher. He even rebuilt the temple, super-sizing it and placing a Roman eagle on it. The temple then became a huge business, with people selling sacrifices. Do you remember the story? Jesus goes postal and knocks over their tables.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
(Matthew 7:1-6)

We looked at this passage last week. Jesus had the right to be on the throne according to the genealogies in Matthew, so rather than seeking Jesus to destroy, he kills all baby boys.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:7-12)

Jesus is very aware of Herod, his power, and his influence. His cousin, John the Baptist, was beheaded by Herod.

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day — for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
(Luke 13:31-33)

Jesus knows He is going to die a political death. He is aware of Herod. We need to be aware of Herod. We need to be aware of our culture. Jesus wants us to pledge allegiance to a different empire. Which kingdom will we pledge allegiance to? That is the real question today. We can follow Jesus—the real King of Kings—or we can follow the kings and rules and marketers and leaders of this world.

Christ-followers for generations have been rebels. They have lived radical, counter-cultural lives. Many have given their lives for their faith, refusing to bow down to the idols and gods of this world.

What about us? Do we worship the idols of our world—money, success, power—or humbly surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.
(Luke 23:6-9)

Herod wants Jesus to entertain him!

Zealots were activists. They were protestors. Jesus did not join them.

How do we ignore the kingdom? We focus on another Kingdom.

Jesus ignored Herod because He was living for a different Kingdom.

My challenge to you is ignore Herod and our materialistic culture that says more and bigger is better. Do you need all of that stuff? Do you need to buy all of that stuff? Do you need to go into debt to get all of that stuff?

I’m not going Scrooge on anyone! I love to give and receive gifts. In fact, I’ve already done my part this year to stimulate the economy, but I’ve also done so challenged by the idea of spending less.

Are there gifts I can offer that aren’t found at Target? Can I give my presence rather than just a bunch of presents? Why do I give gifts? Really.

In 2007, film maker Morgan Spurlock of “Supersize Me” fame made a movie called “
What Would Jesus Buy.” It’s makes quite a statement.

An article in this week’s AnnArbor.com noted that the
Prosperity Gospel preached in many churches is to blame for some of the overspending. According to a Time magazine survey, more than 60 percent of Christians agree that “God wants people to be financially prosperous.”

Let’s be rebels this Christmas. Let’s be radical! Let’s give thought and care into not only what we buy, but why. Will it matter in six months? Will we still be paying for our gifts in six months? 50% of the people charging their purchases still owe for last year’s Christmas! Despite the recession, “
the average American plans to spend $751 on gifts this year, up 22 percent from last year’s spending plans.”

Here’s a few questions to think about the next time you’re at the mall...

- why am I here?
- do I need this?
- how will I pay?
- what if I wait?
- where will I put it?

I want to offer two gift suggestions that will not end up in next year’s garage sale.

The first is a gift to
Hope Clinic, our local ministry partner. We have catalogs of gifts you can purchase—everything from hot meals to medical care to prescriptions for needy in our community.

The second is clean water. Thousands of men, women and children die every DAY just because they lack clean drinking water. A
gift to The Water Project can literally save lives.

We can serve MasterCard or the Master.

We can serve the king of this world or the King of kings.

We worship and live radical lives because He is worthy of our complete and total devotion.

Let’s worship more, spend less, give to Hope Clinic and the Water Project, and make this Christmas matter.

You can listen to the podcast
here.

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