A tenet of the Advent Conspiracy is Worship Fully.
To reclaim Christmas, we can dole out a considerable amount of advice. Yet we need to be reminded that “Advent” is part of the Advent Conspiracy. Any suggestions offered to regain Christmas can never be addressed unless the reader has a stirred conscience and a desire to participate in the Advent season.
Advent is not a scripture-proscribed holiday. Advent evolved from the development of the liturgical calendar. The early church was largely composed of illiterate people. Paper was very expensive and rare, so even if you wanted to read and write, the transference of scriptural knowledge was usually reserved to a few. To resolve this problem, the early church used a calendar to emphasize various parts of the gospel story. Up until the 19th century, Easter was the big holiday in Christendom. The crucifixion of Jesus had a specific date because it occurred during the Jewish Passover. The gospels are replete with details of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, and contemporary secular sources of the time verified much of what was recorded in the gospels.
Advent was designed to instruct believers in the coming of Jesus. Words like “anticipation” and “preparedness” apply to this time of year. While the Nativity Scene is often associated with this season, that did not appear until the 13th century courtesy of St. Francis of Assisi. But the stories of the birth of Jesus abounded. Unlike the crucifixion, the birth of Jesus was reported quite differently in each of the gospels. Mark and John have nothing about it, while Matthew and Luke were similar but each providing a unique element to the story. So Advent leaves a lot more to the imagination.
Advent is a spiritual journey. It is my journey and it is personal. There are no formulas here, no recited liturgy or rites of passage. It is, in essence, a reminder that at one time in the history of man was my personal history – a life without the Christ. I have heard a lot of testimonies and they all contain some common elements – one of which is preparation. Whether a person knew it or not, they were being prepared for the coming of Christ into their lives.
As a Bible-centered evangelical raised in rural Missouri, the liturgical calendar was something lightly regarded in my church. My family did not celebrate Advent as such although I recognize some elements of it on hindsight. So it would remain until I was much older (several years ago) when I realized that Christmas had become, in reality, a single day on the calendar of frenetic activity and material consumption with a rapid succession of events proceeding, as any parent of children can attest. Managing the affairs of Christmas became algebraically more complex with each addition to the family. Finding the true meaning of Christmas was illusive.
I related to what C.S. Lewis referred to in Surprised by Joy, this awareness that there was something fresh, mysterious and pure somewhere near me, more than imagination. On hindsight I realize that I was “being prepared.” My conscience was stirred. For a few years I kept asking God, “Lord, is this what Christmas is about?” Each year I was more prepared to address that question.
And that is where the Advent Conspiracy begins – prayer and meditation. It is no accident that missionaries and Christian charities begin with prayer support. Missionaries don’t say this rhetorically when they share how we can support them – they begin with prayer. You can write a check and that takes hardly a minute. But missionaries are full time on the front line of our faith. They need our prayer support all the time. Advent is certainly no different. It begins with you, preparing yourself, for the coming of the Saviour. It grows to be an embedded awareness.
What I share of the various tenets of the Advent Conspiracy in a few weeks will reflect almost half a lifetime of my spiritual journey. No guilt trips here. No radical purge of materialism. Rather it was a gradual transformation. I discovered that the Advent calendar was there for a reason, to redirect my thoughts and energy toward a renewal of my faith. It is a spiritual exercise that I now look forward to each year.
May you worship fully this Advent.
Please note that Advent Conspiracy is a movement started by a handful of concerned Christians desiring to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.