Advent is almost upon us. Traditionally, this is a season of preparation for the great festival of the incarnation, Christmas in the West, Nativity in the East. How do we prepare to greet our King? We clean everything, we get ourselves in good shape, we pay our dues to Him. Spiritually, this means prayer and repentance, fasting (cutting back on food and drink), and giving to the poor and disadvantaged.
It does not mean shopping and giving or receiving gifts, or going to parties. That is all reserved for the Twelve Days – the Epiphany celebration, from Christmas Day to January 6. In this world many, if they have heard His name, have never felt the joy of His gifts on earth. We should keep in mind that our celebration should be quiet, inexpensive and in keeping with a sobriety that remembers those who have been lost to famine and disease.
Here are some resources to help plan for Advent, Christmas and the year to come:
Advent Conspiracy is a programme to motivate people to move away from materialism and the cultural push to spend and borrow. It is geared toward group participation, such as a church. Pastors can utilize video and print resources directly from the website.
Another charity helping people who are caught in the worst conditions is Samaritan’s Purse. They are best known for “Operation Christmas Child” which sends gifts to school-age children around the world. I’m not a big fan of the OCC shoeboxes myself; many people are clueless as to what is appropriate so there ends up being a lot of waste. It does get people started on thinking about those in great need in other places, though. If you think you and your church or family are ready to move past the shoeboxes, a donation or a collection drive for Samaritan’s Purse efforts to relieve famine is a great undertaking.
Samaritan’s Purse does relief work in many countries; they were in Haiti and Japan and are very active in Africa right now. They have a good track record of relief monies reaching those in need.
I will post more on other charities every week, or more often. I appreciate any references and personal stories, as well, if I may use them publically. If you wish to write to me privately, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Gmail is a great spam filter, so I am not at all worried about that. Send photos if you wish to publicize what your church or organization is doing. It will encourage others.