December 1, 2020

A Simple, Winsome Intro to Advent

Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime, by Mark D. Roberts

✓ Ebook available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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Mark D. Roberts blogs on Patheos at his site, “Reflections on Christ, Church, and Culture.” Over the years, he has become an admitted “Adventophile,” and his site has many articles introducing Advent and the Christian Year. His wife, Linda, is doing an illustrated online Advent Calendar on the site this year called, “Linda’s Advent Doodles.” Mark has been blogging on Advent since 2004.

I find his material refreshingly simple, down-to-earth, and winsome. If you or someone you know would like a primer on the Advent season and how we might celebrate it as individuals and congregations, check out Mark’s contributions.

Tonight, I downloaded his ebook, Discovering Advent, for my Kindle. For only $2.99, I received an excellent resource to help me think through the basics of Advent again, and one which I will use in teaching about Advent to others.

He tells his story: the story of a dyed in the wool Presbyterian “Christmasophile,” who loved “the Christmas season,” which for him extended from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. He attended First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, CA, where Rev. Lloyd John Ogilvie was pastor. Ogilvie introduced the practice of using an Advent wreath in worship services, while still emphasizing Christmas carols and themes in his messages in the season leading up to Christmas.

As Mark Roberts went to Fuller Seminary, he was introduced to the concept of the Church Year and Advent. Later when he became Senior Pastor at Irvine Presbyterian Church, his worship director introduced him to Advent music and other practices that led him to start “getting it” and becoming an “Adventophile” himself.

In subsequent chapters, Roberts tells us how Advent began enriching his celebration of Christmas, how it helped him resolve the dilemma of dealing with the “secularization of Christmas, and gave him practices that helped him in his own devotional life.

As I entered my early thirties, I tried to emphasize the Christian aspects of Christmas in the days leading up to the holiday. Yet I seemed to be fighting a losing battle, not just with my family and my culture, but also with myself. I needed some new way to focus my mind and heart on God. I needed some new traditions that would help me. And I needed social support for these traditions, the sort of thing that comes from a community of shared belief and practice. Then I discovered Advent.

Mark Roberts has an excellent section on how the colors of Advent (and the other liturgical seasons) helped remind him to prepare for Christ’s coming. He also gives several other practical suggestions for practices that can help us grow closer to God in this season. I like that he balances the community aspects of the season — like paying attention to the advent emphases in corporate worship — with family practices — such as using an advent wreath, calendar, or one’s nativity set to mark the passing of the days. He also suggests the simple practice of dressing for Advent, finding ways to incorporate the colors into the very clothes we wear.

And he does not forget to emphasize “doing acts of kindness and justice that inflame [our] hope for God’s future” as a way of anticipating the coming of the King of Righteousness.

The book concludes with an Advent Devotional Guide, using the Advent Wreath with prayers, readings, and songs.

I highly recommend this inexpensive, simple, winsome guide to Advent.


  1. In the spirit of which, happy feastday of Santa Claus!

    Okay, St. Nicholas of Myra. The real person behind Santa Claus, never mind any Siberian shamen or Coca-Cola advertisments 🙂

  2. Richard Hershberger says

    “I tried to emphasize the Christian aspects of Christmas in the days leading up to the holiday. Yet I seemed to be fighting a losing battle,”

    This is an excellent point. I have two young daughters, aged four and two. The older is now of an age to be nearly frantic with anticipation for Christmas, and the younger picks this up from her sister. Some of this is innocuous: decidedly pointed praise of other houses’ Christmas lights, which I have resisted putting up in the past. I am willing to cave in on that (to my wife’s disgust, since she has wanted them for years; I never said we couldn’t have them, merely that I wouldn’t put them up). The desire for Christmas lights is one thing. The whole package of commercialized “secular Christmas” is quite another. But what is one to do, short of packing the kids in a crate for the month? (Tempting though that may be at times…) Advent gives me something to work with. We have the ceremony (which kids adore) of lighting the wreath at dinner, and we work through the Advent calendar. It is no wonder that traditions which don’t include Advent end up be a month of Santa Clause 24/7: *shudder*.

    • For kids, maybe we need a way to abduct the practice of putting up Christmas lights into advent? Perhaps light a new string every day? Find lights of the correct color for the week?

      I don’t know what the solution would be. But we will have to think about this, because we live 3 doors from the “Miracle on 34th Street” in Baltimore. (For those outside B’more: the block perpendicular to ours has a huge light display each year. Given the delight everyone has in this, and the fact we are around the corner, it would seem rather negative of us not put up a few lights.)

      Convincing kids not to be excited about Christmas gifts is probably impossible. I can remember that…I was so pure, and so purely selfish, as a kid, with no social pressure to disguise my feelings in any way. (I admit to having holidays ranked by the goodies that came with them: #1 Christmas (toys!), #2 Easter (the good candy!), #3 Halloween (the mediocre candy!). #4 My birthday… [you mean, by birthday isn’t a holiday? What?])

      At least longing for Christmas gifts involves waiting… that’s kind of on theme. 🙂

      • Wait until the third sunday of Advent, the pink candle (called Gaudete Sunday, or rejoice!). We don’t do anything for Christmas until then, other than advent wreath & services.

  3. Glad to see you’re getting use out of that Kindle. How do you like it so far? Oh, and thanks for the recommendation. I just purchased the book.

  4. Mark D. Roberts says

    Thanks, Chaplain Mike, for this review. I appreciate it!!

  5. I remember when Pastor Ogilvie introduced the Advent Wreath for the first time at FPCH. He very carefully explained the meaning of the season and of each candle. Just the very act of lighting candles as the focal point of a service in the First Presbyterian Church was enough to send not a few Elders, Deacons and others into a tizzy !

    The following Sunday, as Pastor prepared to light the second candle, he in good humor noted a few strident inquiries over the preceding week: “What gives with all this ROMANISM ?!” and proceeded to explain again the wonderful old/new tradition.

    I’m glad it caught on.