Posted by: Philip Rushton | December 12, 2011

Moving Beyond Christmas Guilt: Four proactive ways to deepen your Advent experience.

Many of us long for a meaningful Christmas season, yet we don’t always know how to make this happen. In our attempt to deepen our Advent season we throw around idealistic statements like, “material indulgence is bad,” or “we shouldn’t focus too much on gifts and decorations.” As a result, Advent spirituality is often reduced to being against things, or agreeing in principle that many of our worldly traditions are unhealthy.

In my experience this does not help me enter into the significance of the season. Often our good intentions are reduced to empty cliches. We agree that material indulgence is unhealthy yet we do not know how to proactively counteract it. As a result we are left with a sort of Christmas guilt. We know it should be focused on Christ yet at the end of the season it has become about the things we said we disagreed with.

That is why I think our approach to Advent should be more proactive. Instead of simply being against things we should take on some specific practices that can actually deepen our experience. Our discussion needs to become more practical.

Last year, I referenced a movement on the blog called Advent Conspiracy. Advent Conspiracy is a movement that focuses on four specific practices that help us enter into the significance of the season. I think these practices show us a more proactive way to deepen our Advent experience. What follows us a summary of these four main practices.

1. Worship Fully
I think one of the best ways we can deepen our Advent experience is to create space for worship. In the midst of all the busyness of the season we should prioritize time to be in the presence of God. There are a number of ways we can do this. We have a number of extra worship services this time of year that allow us to encounter God in meaningful ways. We can also build worship into our personal and family lives. Many of us have Christmas traditions where we watch our favorite holiday movies each year. What if we started some new traditions that focused on God. Perhaps we could build in family Advent devotional times, or spend more time reading through the gospels during Christmas each year.

2. Spend Less
We often talk about the problems of consumerism during this time of year. What if we actually built in some habits that helped us counteract this trend. What about drawing names for giving gifts if you have large families instead of having everybody buy gifts for everybody else. Perhaps we could be more creative and make homemade gifts. Perhaps we could simply set a more realistic budget for gifts and stick to it.

3. Give More
The idea behind this practice is to find ways to give to those in need. The Christmas story is about Jesus giving himself to the world. In Phil 2 we read, “Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” One of the ways we can connect with Christ this season is to follow his example of self-giving love towards the world. Perhaps we could serve a neighbor in need, or donate money to an important charity.

4. Love All
This final practice draws us beyond a superficial act of service. The reality is that it is easy for us to do acts of service while missing the point. Scott Boren writes, “We can talk about what we are doing as a church for those in need; but none of this means we actually love. To love means being in relationship with others who do not have that love. We are investing in them not just through projects but through continued, often very costly interaction.” When Jesus came to earthy he gave of himself in a costly way. He didn’t help us from a distance, he moved into our dark world and invested in the lives of those around him. This fourth practices invites us to make time for people this season. Spend time with family, reach out to those who are lonely, or seek reconciliation with those whom you have become estranged.

What are some specific ways you can deepen your Advent experience?


  1. Couldn’t resist another entry into the C’mass discussion. Check out an essay by Christopher Hitchens ( now enjoying his eternity, or not ) in the Dec 24 th Wall Street Journal. Go to the Review section , the article is captioned “Forced Merriment” The on-line is full text but the print copy does just fine. sometimes it is good to see what the opposition has to say about us………………………Paz en Cristo………………

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