I have provided commentary elsewhere on Baptist’s historical disinterest in the Christian liturgical calendar. For most Baptists, words like Advent, Epiphany, and Lent are associated with Catholicism and have no place within the walls of Baptist ecclesiology. That is, in part, the blessing of being Baptist. Each church decides what is best for them as it pertains to their structure for worship and following a liturgical calendar does not necessarily make a church any better or more pious. On the other hand, we miss something powerful and special when we pay little to no attention to the structure of a yearly church calendar, one that has been in place for centuries. So, if you are part of a Baptist church, here are four quick reasons why I believe it would be beneficial for your church to recognize and celebrate Advent.
1. Celebrating Advent helps churches connect the bridge from worship in the 21st century to worship in the early church. Although we are wise to not make our residence in the past, we nevertheless should appreciate and recognize the importance of what the church has been doing for hundreds of years. A form of Advent celebration has been in place since the 2nd century. There must be something of value in taking part of this celebration since it has been meaningful to Christians since the time of the church fathers.
2. Celebrating Advent helps churches spotlight the specifics of Christ’s incarnation, especially in preaching. When that first Sunday of Advent rolls around, preachers and worship leaders have a unique and blessed opportunity to lead the congregation into a biblical sense of expectation. There is something “off” when a church waits until the Sunday before Christmas to begin highlighting the birth of the Savior. Advent moves the church’s celebration of Christmas from plays, dinners, and parties (all of which are great), to a profound sense of Jesus Christ becoming nothing and humbling himself to death, even death on a cross.
3. Celebrating Advent helps churches lead their people into a period of spiritual renewal and awakening. Have you noticed how every major Christian author has released a “40 days of (fill in the blank).” There are 40 Days of Prayer, 40 Days to Build Your Church, 40 Days to Biblical Literacy, 40 Days to a Better Marriage, 40 Days to Physical Healing, and on and on. These studies are selling like hotcakes and Baptist churches have been leading the charge. These can be wonderful things and we should take advantage of them, but why not highlight the two most wonderful periods of spiritual renewal that coincide with the two most precious days of the year for Christians? Those two periods are Advent and Lent – Christmas and Easter.
4. Celebrating Advent helps churches equip parents to count down the days with their children to the coming of Christ, not just the arrival of Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I am a Santa supporter; me and the big guy are pretty tight. But unfortunately most parents and children use an Advent calendar to mark off the days till Santa comes, not the days till Christ is born. Little do they know (especially ironic among non-Christian parents) that their “countdown calendar” is a uniquely Christian tradition that is centered on Jesus Christ, not Santa Claus. The four weeks of Advent is an incredibly rich opportunity for family worship and devotion in the home, something the church can easily foster by recognizing this period of expectation.
The first Sunday of Advent is this Sunday, November 27th. Don’t let this wonderful opportunity pass you and your family by. I will be posting a daily Advent devotional right here on PhilipMeade.com – I hope they are blessing to you.