M-Note 11.26.2020 // Thanksgiving Edition

Gathering,

Earlier this week, I spoke to a large group of pastors from all across Canada. Originally planned as an in-person event, it turned into a 3 day Zoom conference (#2020). I led them through a conversation about leading change in congregations based on my book Let Go. At one point, the organizer wished me a Happy American Thanksgiving (the Canadians celebrate it earlier in the fall), and this led to a group conversation about how our traditions compare. While they traditionally practice a “buy nothing” day around the holidays, I shared that we have “Black Friday” where we are far from buying nothing, we buy everything. They laughed, I laughed, but inside I was a little embarrassed. A “buy nothing” day is a much better way to celebrate gratitude.
 
At The Gathering, I have always urged us to think about this time of year differently. In addition to Thanksgiving, this Sunday is the first day of Advent, the season that prepares us for Christmas. Our attention will turn to that familiar yet powerful story of God coming to dwell among us. The Bible says this about Jesus’ incarnation:
 
“though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Phil. 2.6-7)
 
Christmas is a season that we remember all that God gave up and gave away to dwell among us and save us in Jesus. The best way to celebrate and honor God this time of year is to give and serve. So every year for over a decade, I have asked you to spend a little less on the gifts you buy for one another, the kind that are often forgotten and rarely make any difference. Instead, save that money and give it on Christmas Eve where 100% of our offering will go to drill wells for clean water in Mozambique. This is a gift that matters, that saves lives, and transforms communities. A gift befitting the One whose birth we celebrate.
 
But doing that requires being intentional. I know this year our holidays look different, starting with Thanksgiving. But let’s not fill that void with buying a bunch of stuff that will not change the lives of those we love (and often will leave us financially strapped). Instead, turn your attention to Advent and let’s celebrate Christmas in a way that honors God.  
 
To help you celebrate this Advent, The Gathering has created an interactive Advent Calendar. Each day, we will have a Christmas reflection, activity, or challenge for you and your family.  Everything from receiving daily devotionals via email, to gathering with family to enjoy the joys of the season, to even a few social distancing events. You can find the Advent Calendar here.
 
Let me highlight three of these activities that are coming up fast:
 
1.     The Literacy Project Giving Tree – Buy a small gift for a teacher at one of our partner schools. These teachers work so hard to teach students often under incredibly difficult circumstances. This is a simple way for us to bless them and remind them they are not alone. Don’t let these go unfilled. Sign up to buy a small gift for a teacher today. Gifts are to be dropped off this Sunday from 12-2pm at the McCausland site parking lot.
 
2.     Silent Nights – on December 2, The Gathering Clayton sanctuary will be open for prayer and meditation. If you need someone to pray with you, our pastors will be available. Times and details can be found on the Advent Calendar.
 
3.     Christmas Drive-In Movie Night – Hop in the car and enjoy a little Christmas cheer in the McCausland parking lot on December 5th. At 5:30PM catch The Grinch and at 8:00PM Elf. Tickets required, but 100% of the ticket prices goes to clean water in Mozambique. Register your car here.
 
As always, we are here for you, and we will be worshiping and anticipating Christmas together. I hope you’ve had a Happy Thanksgiving. As we turn towards Christmas, my prayer is that the change in our normal traditions can lead us to focus us more on Christ and the people he has put in our lives.
 
Peace+
Matt
 
P.S. Thank you to those of you that filled out a Say Yes! card and made a commitment to give financially at The Gathering. These gifts allow our ministry for all people to happen, especially during the holidays. If you missed it or just haven’t had a chance to fill it out, please do it. My hope is that everyone who calls The Gathering their church will participate in some way. You can find the card and fill it out here.
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