Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Is The Deal With Evangelicals And Advent? Part 2

Advent WreathUSA TODAY recently ran an article entitled, Evangelicals adopting Advent. The online version of the article received over 800 comments both negative and supportive. In my first post on this subject I shared some reasons why evangelicals would want to observe Advent and responded to some mild criticisms of evangelicals' growing interest in the observance. In this post I want to address one other complaint.

In my interview for the article I wanted mention our church's involvement with the Advent Conspiracy campaign rather than just talk about how my family personally observes Advent. Cathy Lynn Grossman graciously listened to what I had to say and wrote about Advent Conspiracy and Living Water International for her own blog as well as including a brief mention in her print article ("Their non-denominational church, Providence Community Church in Plano, Texas, has joined more than 1,000 other churches in a program called the Advent Conspiracy, to raise funds for new wells in Third World countries.") The complaint I want to respond to is that it is inappropriate to include projects such as Advent Conspiracy in the observance of Advent. The complaint was not about the campaign per se but that it has nothing to do with Advent. If you want to give then go ahead and give but that is a part of Christmas, not Advent.

Regarding Advent Conspiracy, I am not overly concerned about being technically precise with the differences between Advent and Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is within 48 hours of Black Friday, which has come to symbolize the materialism of the season. If the campaign conflates Advent and Christmas, so be it. The aims behind AC's four categories of "Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All" are worthy aims. There is actually a strong connection with Advent in that this season reminds us that we are living between the Advents of Christ's first and second comings. We celebrate the birth of Christ and also anticipate his second coming. As we live now between the Advents, we affirm that the King has come and his reign has begun although it has not been fully consummated yet. With Advent there is a penitential aspect and we confess our unworthiness in light of his coming. We also confess the responsibility we have as a people commissioned to both love the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves. So we remind ourselves of our mission in the world as we affirm that the King has come, he is at work today, and he will come again to fully consummate the redemption of his people and his creation. So in this we have an ethical aspect to Advent and the Advent Conspiracy fits very nicely with this. If Advent is purely ceremonial in our corporate worship and merely pious in our internal spiritual and psychological preparations then the observance is lacking in my opinion. Since we are evangelicals, it is our prerogative to adapt Advent in this manner, right?

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