The fastest-growing religion in the world is not Islam or Christianity. It is a faith based on the belief that we must be dissatisfied with what we have.
This belief system may be the greatest threat to true Christian faith. It may also pose the greatest threat to being able to truly worship Jesus this Christmas.
Being content in Christ should be the easiest this time of year, but it is often the hardest. The religion of consumerism too often wins. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans spend more than $450 billion on Christmas. Last year’s luxuries have become this year’s necessities.
This month, the District Church has joined a grass-roots movement called the Advent Conspiracy: More than1,000 churches in 17 countries are celebrating Christmas by spending less, giving more, worshiping fully and loving all.
We are crazy enough to believe that the story of Christmas can change our neighborhoods and nations. Therefore we are conspiring to spend less so we can give more and thus fully worship Christ this Christmas.
On Sunday, our church collected gifts to help 150 people in need in the District. We also took up an offering to help with a water project in Liberia through Living Water International. God had stirred our hearts for those in Bomi County, Liberia, who are still facing the effects of a long civil war. We were hoping to raise enough to repair a well, but people gave so generously that we were able to raise enough to build a new well and repair two wells.
There are 884 million people in the world who lack access to clean water, and thousands of people die each day from this preventable problem. What is humbling is that we could solve the world’s water crisis for less than 5 percent of what Americans spend on Christmas each year.
Many in our church have been motivated to give not out of guilt, but from a desire to give a more relational gift this Christmas. Rather than buying a gift that is not particularly wanted or needed, they are buying a share of a well in Liberia on behalf of their loved ones. They are taking the time to write a letter to a parent or friend to share how their life has inspired them to give the gift of water in their honor.
I think we as Americans need to rethink how we give gifts at Christmas and model it more after Jesus. I am certainly not against buying presents. But Jesus was not known primarily for buying presents. He was known for giving Himself relationally to people, giving people the gift of time.
The fundamental reason Christ came into the world was to give us the opportunity to have a relationship with God. Let’s refuse to miss the story of Christmas this year!
Aaron Graham serves as the lead pastor at The District Church in Washington, DC.
Read more essays from area faith leaders at On Faith/Local.