Posted by: Philip Rushton | December 2, 2013

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way: A guide to a counter-cultural Advent

I have talked with a lot of people recently who seem to have given in to the fact that the next four weeks are going to be chaotic, busy, and frustrating. While we are only one day into the season of Advent, a lot of us have prematurely claimed defeat. We act like passive victims to the chaos and consumerism of the season. I think we can do better!

Maybe I’ve had a bit too much coffee this morning, but I find myself a bit worked up about this whole “victim” mentality. I’m a bit weary of people giving up so easily. Sure there are a cultural and familial pressures this time of year that can crowd out the spiritual significance of this season, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

While Advent has become a time of excess, the purpose of the season is to remove the obstacles that get in the way of us receiving God. It is a season that is very similar to Lent. It is a time of repentance, reflection, and preparation. In order for us to understand the great hope of the coming savior, we need to begin by recognizing our need for salvation. That is what Advent is all about.

Yesterday I put together a guide to help you process how you might create space for God in the midst of a season of excess. Here are a few spiritual practices that you might consider implementing during the next four weeks. I’d encourage you to spend some time in reflection today about how you might make the most out of Advent.


Christmas is a time of gift giving; however, sometimes our giving can be misdirected. It is estimated that Americans will spend 450 Billion dollars on Christmas every year. What if we used some of those resources to address the needs of the poor around the world?

Jesus also modeled “incarnational” giving. He did not just write a check, he gave himself to the world. Perhaps we might find ways to get our hands dirty and give of our time and our talents as well.

The Christmas season is notoriously busy. Perhaps this year you might find some things to give up in order to create more space for worship and family. Fasting is not just related to food. You might find it helpful to fast from spending, decorating, watching TV or from trying to fit in too many Christmas events.

Another way to enter into the Christmas story is to spend time in daily reflection and prayer. If you are not currently following a daily reading schedule, here are some recommended readings for Advent:

First Week:                         Second Week:
Mon: Isaiah 40:1-11             Mon: Isaiah 61:1-3
Tue: Matthew 3:1-1              Tue: Mal 3:1-6
Wed: 1 John 1:5-10              Wed: John 15:1-9
Thu: Romans 13:11-14         Thu: Gal 5:16-26
Fri: Jeremiah 33:14-16          Fri: John 1:1-8
Sat: Psalm 43:3-6                 Sat: John 1:9-16
Sun: Isaiah 11:1-10              Sun: Zeph 3:14-17

Third Week:                         Fourth Week:
Mon: Psalm 27: 1-4               Mon: Isaiah 9:2-7
Tue: Romans 15:4-13            Tue: Mt 1:18-25
Wed: Eph 5: 6-14                  Wed: Luke 2:1-20
Thu: Luke 1:26-38                 Thu: Mt 2:1-12
Fri: Luke 1:39-45                   Fri: Luke 2:21-35
Sat: Luke 1:46-55                  Sat: John 3:16-21
Sun: Isaiah 60:1-3                 Sun: Matt 28: 26-20

Along with our regular Sunday worship services we have also planned extra worship opportunities. We will be hosting candlelit service on December 8 called “Blue Christmas.” This services is especially designed to be helpful to those who are struggling this Christmas. We also have 3 Christmas Eve Services this year at 4, 7 and 11pm.

How might you make this a counter-cultural Advent?


  1. Thanks Phil. There is another thing that I hear folks caught up in, and that’s the amount of money they spend that they should not spend, and all the time they are fretting about how many months it will take to pay off the credit cards. You alluded to “giving of yourself” by making small gifts from the heart. They are the best especially if one can share the making with others. Or just going visiting and giving the gift of time.

  2. One of your best – I love it!! Thanks for the column and the reading list!

  3. I love the way you said, I think we can do better. And, It doesn’t have to be this way.   How good to know there is a better more positive choice. Thanks!!

  4. There’s lots of info in the religious media, some really good but we are kinda minimalistic at our house, so after supper we light an Advent candle ( doesn’t have to be only on sunday )and do a scripture reading. This year your list. When the children were small they did artwork or maybe some Advent game. Of course the Advent calendar with pop ups is great, especially if it means something sweet.
    Thanks for helping to keep us on track………………..en Cristo

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