Welcome to the FirstChurch Champaign Advent Conspiracy blog.
Each day, we'll add a daily devotion to help you think through the AC Themes: Worship Fully / Spend Less / Give More / Love All. On the right, you can listen to the AC Sermons from the Launch. Also check out the links to all kinds of Advent Resources.

Feel free to click on the "Comment" word at the bottom of each post to leave your own thoughts and ideas.

May Christ be the heart of your Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday's Daily Devotion

Advent Conspiracy Daily Devotion
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
by Rebecca Motley, Director of Administration and Operations

Revelation 21:6 (NIV)
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Along with coffee, my drink of choice is water. It takes me about 10 seconds to get up from my desk and get some water from the cooler in the office. I don’t even think about it, unless the cooler is empty and then I just tell someone and it is re-filled.

Women in Africa are responsible for gathering water for their families. One statistic from Living Water International (www.water.cc) is that rural women spend an average of 26% of their day trudging to and from a well which can be 5 or more miles away and is very likely polluted.

Because of the time this takes, the women are often unable to do household or other work to earn a better living. Young girls are expected to help with this chore and, as a result, often can’t attend school, depriving them of the education they need to better themselves. 4,900 children per day die in Africa from diseases caused by dirty water.

A $10 donation to help build a well in a village can save a child from disease, a mother from this time-consuming labor and a daughter from illiteracy.

As I mentioned, I am giving up my $2.16 latte special each week. This amounts to $112.32 each year. Or, in another view, 11 children saved. Easy decision. Don’t even have to think about it.

Dear God, please give me perspective and encourage me to share my resources. Amen.

Tuesday's Daily Devotion

Advent Conspiracy Daily Devotion
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Spend Less by Jaron Kamin, Director of Worship for Southwest Campus

The wise men went on a great journey to find the one who was born King of the Jews. Matthew 2:10 tells us that when they saw the star revealing the birthplace of the King : "...they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." (NASB)

We are all on a journey. We are all looking for something. Some of us think we are going to find what we are looking for by acquiring more cool stuff. It makes us feel good for a while when we get something new, but it doesn’t last, and I’m pretty sure for most of us, the feeling of getting a new thing doesn’t result in rejoicing exceedingly with great joy.

Now I know Christmas is almost upon us, and most of the gifts have probably been purchased, so instead of telling you not to go out and buy something, I’d like to offer an invitation. Pursue Jesus. Wherever you are, and in whatever circumstances, may you seek Him with passion and devotion. And if you search, you will find Him. And when you find Him, may you experience the exceedingly great joy that can only be found in Jesus. It’s the kind of joy that frees you from your burdens. I pray that you will experience wholeness and freedom in His embrace, both during this season, and for the rest of your life to come.

Luke 12:15- "Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’" (TNIV)
Life consists in Jesus.

John 9:10 "‘...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’" (TNIV)

Monday's Daily Devotion (catching up a bit)

Advent Conspiracy Daily Devotion
Monday, December 22, 2008
by Pastor Rick Snyder

Scripture: John 4

During Advent, we are seeking to live a more Christ-centered life, a life that is, in fact, counter-cultural, very different from what our culture teaches. We seek to Worship Authentically, to see worship as a lifestyle not a weekly "obligation." We seek to Spend Less, to live a life governed by compassion, not consumption. We seek to Give Wisely, evaluating what gifts will make the most lasting impact – such as the gifts of time, listening, attention, and assistance for the poor. And we seek to Love All, to expand our horizons, looking for those on the margins, who are cut off from the blessings that we take for granted.

Worship is where the Christ-centered life begins. As we offer God praise, we remember that we aren’t the center of the universe. As we offer confession, we repent of the ways we contribute to our world’s brokenness. As we humbly listen for God’s word, we receive our marching orders for how we are to live. As we pray for others, we more fully enter into their joys and sorrows. When we offer our tithes and offerings, we also offer ourselves, for we are the offering God desires the most.

Then in the sacrament of communion, we see a vision of what the world is to be like – a place of inclusion, oneness, shalom, and sharing – with Christ at the center. Our hope is that the worship service leads to a lifestyle of worship, which in turn leads to this vision of communion being fulfilled. So each day may we worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday's Daily Devotion

What the World Needs NOW
by Leslie Barr, Interim Director of Children & Family Ministries

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12:30-31

If you make out a Christmas list, do you list the things you NEED or the things you WANT? Do you list the socks and underwear? The vacuum cleaner to replace the one that’s giving out? How about the kids? Do they list some extra school supplies? Probably not.

Does God need our love? God IS love. He’s going to be there for us and love us no matter what. He SO loved the world that he gave His one and only son. He’s got loads of love. And yet, I think it must be near the top of his wish list. How can we show God how much we love him? How can we give Him the gift of love this advent season? We can share His love with the world. We can love our neighbors. Think of love as a verb. And if God is love, think of God as a verb. Having affectionate feelings towards your neighbors is not enough. Put it into action. How can you SHOW love to your neighbors TODAY? Do you know of someone who could use a helping hand? Is there a way for you to reach out to someone in need? Challenge yourself to put God’s love into action in some way today.

Let us pray.
Father, your love is so amazing. Help us to receive this love and return it to you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Help us to put that love into action, Lord. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves, by serving them—in small ways and big ways. In your loving son’s name we pray, Amen.

Show God’s Love (The following happened in the church office this past week.)
I have an example of why I should not be allowed to answer the phones in the office.
Yesterday, I was waiting for the computer tech to de-virus my computer (thanks, Scott) and was reading a book called "Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration" about global poverty, its root causes and how we in America are unbelievably privileged. The average per capita ANNUAL income in Ethiopia is $90. Wow. Lots of stories of children living in devastating conditions.

So, the phone rings and Patty and Marcia are gone.

The caller tells me that her daughter and six grandchildren (ages 2 months through 11 years) just moved into a house near Stratton School. They have the house, but no funds for Christmas presents for the kids. They missed all the deadlines for the organized programs through Salvation Army, WLRW, Cops for Kids, etc. They need warm gloves and hats, plus some toys.

The staff has decided to adopt the family but could use some help because of the size of the family and the close proximity to Christmas. Would you be willing to join us in showing God’s love? We are hoping to gather some things by Wednesday, Christmas Eve.

Here are some details about our family:
Mother: She doesn’t want anything for herself, but I asked if she needed anything for the house. They have very little kitchen things, like pots/pans, dishes, silverware, etc.
11 year old girl
Wishes for: pillow/curtains in Tinkerbell theme, plus anything to do with HS Musical, size 6 ½ (women’s size) winter boots
5 year old boy twins
Wishes for: pillow/curtains in Wall-E theme, Playstation games, educational games (letters/number recognition)
4 year old girl
Wishes for: Tinkerbell comforter/sheet set & pillows(shares room with Shanella), plus educational games (Dora theme)
3 year old boy
Wishes for: Sponge Bob themed educational toys
3 month old girl
Wishes for: musical/educational toys, winter clothes

**used things in good condition are more than acceptable

We are happy to shop if cash would be easier. Thank you for any consideration you can give in helping us give this family a special Christmas!!!

Advent Conspiracy Offering

Just a reminder that this Sunday at both campuses of FirstChurch, we'll be taking up a special offering for the Advent Conspiracy Fund.

100% of the funds collected will go to support 2 causes. We will be providing support to some of the local agencies that feed the hungry right here in Champaign and we will be digging wells to provide clean drinking water in the village of Lisinjala in Malawi. You may designate your giving if you wish it to go specifically to either hunger or thirst. Otherwise we will split that offering in half in support of those 2 causes.

Thanks to everyone who has taken simple steps this Christmas to Worship Fully by rethinking the way we use our resources this Christmas so that we can make a life changing impact on the world. It has been so overwhelming to hear so many stories about families who have found so much more meaning this Christmas by focusing on giving to those in need instead of getting more stuff we don't really need. I'm quite sure that Jesus is really digging the way we are celebrating his birthday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday's Devotion

Advent Conspiracy Daily Devotion
Love All #3, by Chuck Carlson

Advent is a call to place faith in love’s actions. Love enabled Joseph to stay attended to Mary through a mysterious pregnancy. Faith in God’s love allowed him to stay open to what God is doing even amid the questions and confusion of the moment.

Joseph learned that behind God’s love lie the promises of God. God tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. She is going to conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. The angel proclaims the promise, "She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Where are the places in your life that you need to trust God’s love? A marriage? A job? Finances? Family relationships? May this Christmas be a time when you "make an act of trust toward all of life, where fears preside and distrusts keeps watch…make an act of love toward
friend and foe, where trust is weak and hate burns bright." (Meditations of the Heart, Thurman, p. 152)

Wednesday's Daily Devotion

Advent Conspiracy Daily Devotion
Give More, #3by Rebecca Motley, Director of Administration & Operations
2 Corinthians 8:9, 13-15 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through
his poverty might become rich.Our desire is not that others might be relieved
while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present
time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will
supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who
gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too

This letter from Paul in 2 Corinthians was encouraging the church in Macedonia, which was going through a hard economic time, to be generous. This country is certainly in a difficult and precarious time right now. Although Champaign-Urbana, in general, is on a bit surer footing than some other areas, we are all affected.

Every time I start to think about my insecurities regarding my family’s financial future, I try to remember that there are those, in our own community and throughout the world, who don’t have the basics of food and water. This year, we are asking you to reflect on your needs vs. your wants and try to give up something you want so that others might have something they need.

I am giving up my $2.16 latte special each week. It’s honestly not much of a sacrifice to me and next year, I hope to do better. What are you doing?

Dear Lord, your children are hungry and thirsty and I have plenty. Please keep nudging me to be generous with my resources. Thank you.