To advent or not to advent? That is Q1.
Raised in an upstate mill village Baptist church means I never even heard of Advent till high school when I went to church with one of my high church friends. For us the season peaked at the annual church Christmas tree when we all received an apple, an orange, a couple of mints and Hershey's Kisses in a brown lunch sack.
Many years later I was personally convicted about the growing secularism of the Christmas season. Harriet and I prayed about it, talked through some of the options for keeping the holidays focused on the right things, and decided to observe Advent with our children. As a result, Harriet made our Advent wreath every year and we solemnly read appropriate Scriptures, sang Christmas carols, and lit the candles each week. As we had hoped, our celebration of the season was heightened by this small effort to anticipate his coming.
A few years later, in the first congregation I served as pastor, Advent was a scheduled part of their church calendar. Perhaps it's proximity to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary placed it under the influence of a more liturgical approach to the Christmas season. Being more personally attuned to free-church worship and a less formalized adherence to the Christian calendar it was at first a practice that I thought too formal and contrived. The use of a lectionary on those days just seemed too forced or affected for my tastes. Yet, as we experienced those four Sundays in 1980 we discovered ourselves more prepared to experience the miracle of his birth than before.
Over the years each of our churches included Advent in our seasonal worship. Typically this involved simply including a five minute segment in each worship service when a family would read Scripture, lead the congregation in prayer, and light the Advent candle for that Sunday. For many years our church families would write Advent devotions for each day of December and publish them in a book for church members to use in personal devotion that month. We took great care to insure that our practice of Advent wasn't just a pro forma checking of another worship box, but was consistently biblical, short and simple, and very Christ centered.
'Tis the season, as they say, with Advent 2015 beginning in two weeks, Sunday, November 29, 2015. If there's going to be an Advent element in your seasonal worship this year, it's time to get on with it. Google Advent 2015 Themes and in .34 seconds you'll discover 1,640,000 theme possibilities for your observance this year. You can also find many resources, including the candles to use, at your local LifeWay Christian Resources Store.
To Advent or not to Advent may be the question this year, what I'm calling Q1. It's important now for several reasons----
1. Advent is a distinctively Christian observance. In a blended, grey world this
kind of distinction is needed in our disciple making ministry.
2. Traditional Advent guides the church through the ages of anticipation.
Many believers see the birth of Christ as a New Testament era reality with little
connection to the Old Testament and the Prophets. Advent celebrates the
eternity of Christ as the Living Word. It teaches biblical Christology.
3. Advent pauses us to reflect on Christ. It's a busy world, fast and ferocious.
Our church services are often just as quickly calibrated. An Advent segment of
worship may be a good pause for reflection on the season.
4. Advent fast-forwards the miracle of Christ's birth to right now. Many people
think of the Christmas miracle as something that happened back then with
little affect on people today. Advent bridges those generations and reminds us
of the Living Christ right now.
5. Advent should move us to anticipate his second coming. Someone said that
the up-look is the of the church. Therefore, we should anticipate his
victorious second coming with more joy.
So, I'm a little free-church in my advocacy of Advent as an element of corporate worship. However it is arranged, though, it is a blessed addition to our seasonal anticipation of Christ.
Come Lord Jesus!