Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


Why I am an “Adventophile”

posted by Mark D. Roberts

In
my last post in this series, I told the story of my Advent beginnings.
When I
started out as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in 1991, for the
first time in my life, I began to see Advent as a distinct season of the
year and to experience its richness. Before too long I turned out to be
an “Adventophile” – a lover of Advent. Let me explain why.
 

Advent-wreath-choir-5.jpg

In
the years following my Advent beginnings, my appreciation of Advent
grew slowly and steadily. At some point, I became aware of the purple and
pink Advent color scheme, something we had not previously emphasized at
Irvine Presbyterian Church. I remember when, sometime in the 1990s, we
started using three purple and one pink candle in the church Advent
wreath. It was a change for church members, who had been used to all
white candles. Of course a few people made sure I knew they missed the
“beautiful white candles.” But soon our whole church appreciated the
connotations of the colors. (Photo: The Advent wreath on the chancel of
the sanctuary at Irvine Presbyterian Church)

At some point, I decided to go “whole hog” with Advent colors one
year. I wore purple ties during Advent. I put up an “Advent tree” in my
office
at church, which could be seen from the busy street in front of the
church. I didn’t outlaw the use of Christmas colors in our sanctuary or
anything like that, though our paraments (cloth decorations) on the
communion table and
pulpit were purple. I’m sure some folks thought I’d lost a few of my
marbles in my zeal for Advent colors, but, for me, it was a chance to
emphasize Advent in my personal life as well as in my ministry.

Why did Advent matter so much to me? Why had I come to love this
season that was generally ignored? Among many reasons, two stand
out. First, I found that observing Advent enriched my celebration of
Christmas. Taking four weeks to focus on the hope of Christ’s coming
made me much more joyful when I finally got to celebrate it. The more I
got in touch with my need for a Savior, the more I rejoiced at the
Savior’s birth.

Second, I found in Advent a solution to the age-old problem of
secular Christmas vs. spiritual Christmas. If you’re a Christian, you
know what I mean. We recognize that Christmas is, most of all, a time to
celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s a holiday that focuses on the
meaning of the Incarnation. Yet, given the secular traditions of
Christmas, we spend most of our time preparing, not for a celebration of
the birth of Jesus, but for fulfilling the demands of the season. We
have to buy lots of presents for lots of people and make sure they are
all wrapped and delivered. We have parties to attend and parties to
host. We have relatives who come to visit or, alternatively, we are the
relatives who go elsewhere to visit. This requires lots of planning, not
to mention the energy required for holiday travel. We have to send out
Christmas cards, making sure our addresses are right and that they get
on all the envelopes. If we have younger children, we may very well
spend hours trying to assemble gifts that come with sketchy instructions
written by someone for whom English is, at best, a third language. And
so on, and so on, and so on.

Meanwhile, we hear our Christian leaders telling us that we’re
spending too much time and money in secular celebrations and not
focusing enough on the real meaning of Christmas. Religious posters
proclaim: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But, in fact, Jesus
faces heavy competition from retailers, relatives, and revelers. So
what’s a Christian to do?

In my idealistic twenties, I thought about downsizing my celebrations
of Christmas. At one point I tried to convince some friends and family
members that we should make Christmas an entirely “spiritual” holiday,
one in which we focus only on the birth of Jesus. Not wanting to be the
Grinch, however, I didn’t abandon secular festivities or gift giving.
“Let’s do that stuff on New Year’s Eve,” I argued. “Not only is this
holiday very close to Christmas, but also, if we give gifts on New
Year’s, we’ll be able to shop in the post-Christmas sales and that will
save a lot of money.” Ah, what persuasive logic! But nobody was persuaded, least of
all my family members. The secular and familial Christmas traditions
were too embedded in our lives and, I might add, greatly loved. So I
abandoned my effort to de-secularize Christmas. (In retrospect, I rather
think I wouldn’t have liked doing what I proposed. I too, you see, am a
lover of Christmas traditions.)

As I entered my thirties, I tried to emphasize the Christian aspects
of Christmas in the days leading up to the holiday. But I seemed to be
fighting a losing battle. I needed some way to focus my mind and heart.
And I needed some new traditions that would help me. Then I discovered
Advent. For some reason, observing Advent during December helped me to
draw near to God in a way that I had not been able to do before. I still
engaged in the secular celebrations of Christmas, happily so, I might
add. But I also added several new practices that tuned my heart to
resonate with the deeper meaning of the coming of Christ.

I know that many others have had a similar experiences to mine. Since
2004 I have been blogging about Advent. During the past six years I
have received dozens of emails from people who have shared their own
excitement for Advent. Some have grown up with Advent traditions. Most
have “discovered” Advent later in life, much as I did. All have found
that observing Advent enriches their celebration of Christmas and allows
them to have a precious, peaceful, God-focused experience during what
is often a hectic holiday season.

In my next post I’ll describe some of the Advent practices that I have found to be most helpful.



  • Ray

    Advent is a lot like Lent – misunderstood and underappreciated in most Protestant traditions. Mark is dead-on right in his quest to educate the Christian community regarding the value of the spiritual disciplines embodied in these two liturgical seasons. We can’t let the Roman Catholics have all the fun, can we? (If I was a smiley face kind of guy, I would put one here.)
    Also, there is a question I have been pondering since Mark’s series on the diety of Jesus. Do we place a disproportionate emphasis on Jesus’ birth at the expense of proclaiming Jesus to be the incarnation of God? In my mind the two should be given equal weight since Jesus is fully God and fully human. But all of our traditions center on the human baby. I guess it’s just our anthropomorphic nature.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Ray: Christmas is THE time of year to focus on the Incarnation. You are quite right. The miracle of Christmas is the birth of a baby who is not only the human Savior, but also the Word of God made flesh, God with us, Emmanuel. Thanks for this reminder.

  • Lesli

    We never practiced Advent when I was growing up. But, something, somewhere, got me into looking at it this year (at 36). Now, we are doing something everyday with our 2 year old to help “prepare” for Jesus’ birth…on Sunday we gave him a holy family to play with (we’ll bring Jesus out on Christmas). Today we started a Christmas Jar (inspired by the book). Tomorrow we are making Christmas cookies for a special friend. This blog has been great at getting me in the right mind set each morning before sharing time with my son. Thank you.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Lesli: That sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Wild Willie

    Go purple!

  • Seventh Day Sabbath

    You’ve Discovered Catholicism!…and are functioning to bring in the One World Church, which,
    unfortunately for all the smiley face Happy-above-all-else, is directly prophesied as the AntiChrist
    false church! Wow! I was raised United Presbyterian, and we could have really used some BIBLE STUDY.
    Our local Presbyterian church in this town also hosts the EASTERN STAR Masonic meetings!! Wow!!
    So, you know what, Mark?
    You need to become a Follower of the Lamb, not some self-styled Guru of Good Feelings.
    Get some Education about God’s Word.
    Catholicism is the Whore of Babylon, Murderer of the Saints of Jesus. Idolatry and Stupid Rituals,
    while the powerful Vatican Mafia are able to Co-Opt your happy-wappy mind.
    Remember the History.
    Remember the Slaughter of the Innocents ordered by Herod.
    Don’t distract people from the TRUTH.
    That is All…
    Your Superior under Christ, Jack S.

  • RC

    Seventh Day,I would like to be a fly on the wall when you come face to face with Jesus, and you have to explain to Him, why you attacked His Church, which He established. You need to prayerfully examine your motives.

  • Gary Mac

    The message in the virgin birth is we all are virgin to His Spirit until that same seed be planted in you who was planted in Mary. Giving birth to that seed – THE CHRIST– is what makes us His bride. Giving birth to the Christ, Christ in YOU; it is YOU that the example is about. How many of you have given birth to Him and He come forth in your life? I tell you few who find His way.
    Interesting comments you all have posted with much disagreement about doctrines: the catholic Church is not the antichrist, nor is the Baptist, or Methodist or JWs or any denomination. The antichrist is anyone who does not believe he can be that same person of Christ that Jesus was. If you are not as Gods example sent for you to be then you are against that example sent to you, anti, against His will for YOU. It is YOU who is supposed to be that same person of Christ that Jesus was, Christ in YOU, Gods anointing in YOU, the anointed one.
    Gary
    Christ is being ousted in our culture not only in government, schools, social environments, our churches for one reason and that is you do not follow the way of Christ. He is not in you and you do not believe you can be as He is, that is why the loss of the meaning of Christmas, not commercialism but unbelief. Be as He is, walk as He walked, have the same mind in you who was in Christ Jesus then and only then will Christmas have its true meaing.

  • Kathy

    If not in doctrine, let us humbly be United in Christ in spirit, in prayer, in words, in actions; and most of all in love. Reflecting on all your comments, I was stuck on the one about Christ being taken out of the schools. Very true. But why not? If Christians can’t even agree to put aside differences and love and service to one another, all the non-christians see is doctrine and denominations- when we are needed most to shine and reflect his love, we often miss the mark.
    I won’t take long but I wanted to share a quick story-I’ve been going to Uganda Africa for 6 years now and initially thought I was going to organize a health clinic, build a school for orphans and organize a widow’s community…(which, by the way,is all in progress now as funds permit) I’m among a people who have nothing, yet willingly and thankfully give everything. I am among a people who face death and dying and poverty (like we can’t even imagine)everyday, and face it with gratitude for being able to have something to give- Even if their giving is only a kind word, or a drink of water for someone. They’re a people who don’t take anything for granted and truly do “Love Their Neighbor” (whether they be Christian, Muslim, Buddist, Protestant, or have no religion at all)they put others needs above their own with no consideration for their own welfare. I had the pleasure of spending the advent season with them a few years back and realized that Advent to them is so vivid and daily. Every day, they are grateful for Mary’s response to the angel “Yes, thy will be done” and thus baby Jesus was born. Daily experiencing the “road” these villagers walk daily, makes them (and me) acutely aware of the sacrifices of Jesus. Watching their own children and families die, they recognize a parent’s sorrow and pain thus their connection with the great sacrifice the Father was making for us. Knowing the frailities and snares of childhood, these widows take in and shelter each orpahn as their own, loving them unconditionally and guiding them toward adulthood (geee….doesn’t that sound like the Holy Spirit?) In living all of this daily, it is natural for these Ugandans to embrace Christianity and love God with all their heart, soal and mind and love their neigbor as themselves. So, you see they’ve given me a daily advent,pointing me toward my sweet Lord and saviour without harshness for others.
    Thanks for listening-I guess I too in my way am an advent lover (and a Catholic! ;-))

  • Seventh Day 4th Commandment

    Find the “Great Controversy” by Ellen G. White, and Pray for wisdom, and READ it.
    Harvestime Books.
    Probably the most important book an American Christian can ever read.
    The Catechism is not the Word of God.
    That is truly Great stuff to be involved in the Third World, saving souls
    and experiencing this great Heart feeling, seeing such wonderful humble people.
    The Roman Empire Church killed as many Gospel followers as they could.
    They Killed the REAL Saints. Guys like Wycliffe, John Huss, everybody who had to
    hide their few pages of scripture.
    If you are raised “Catholic”, then you are Full of Propaganda, Indoctrination, Idolatry,
    Which is NOT of Jesus Christ.
    Your BIG IRVINE Church, full of pink and purple.
    We have seen what happens, haven’t we, over at Garden Grove?
    Wow! Whatta Big Shiny Crystal “Church”.
    They spent more money worrying about fancy flowers and rich suits than about
    their duty to teach the Word of God.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    It is no doubt obvious that I welcome comments from a wide range of people, including those who strongly disagree with me. I do not delete comments unless they are spam. I do not edit comments unless they include profanity or personal attacks upon individuals (other than me). Yet, I do ask my commenters to take seriously the following biblical counsel: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Scripture teaches that the church will be built up when we are “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). I try to do this in my writing, however often I fall short. I would encourage others to do the same. Thank you.

  • RC

    Let us pray for Seventh Day, that the truth may eventually come to him. It is sad to see someone so misguided.
    God Bless +

  • pat Grimm

    The Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus is the Messiah, HOWEVER they do not believe in His Diety, they believe that He is a Spirit Being and thus lower than God the Father and not one with Him. They also believe that Jesus is now and was before his earthly ministry, Michael the Archangel. People can believe what they want, choose whatever religion they want, but please don’t try to fool people into believing lies. That is not God, that is deception.

  • Your Name: Lucy

    Christmas is near! We must prepare ourselves to receive the Lord!

  • Gary Mac

    I agree with Pat, one can believe what he likes but one thing cannot be changed, Christ is who He is and it is Christ in YOU who YOU are supposed to be, Gods anointing in YOU. If one is anything other than what Jesus was then you have formed your own god for worship. God sent Jesus to teach us to be like him, imitate him, walk as he walked. And you really cant fool someone who has the mind of Christ with the same Spirit that was in Jesus no matter what doctrine, denomination, or creed, one may represent.
    Gary

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