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Advent: Living On Purpose

Advent is upon us once more. For those not familiar with (or frightened by) Advent, it’s not something only Roman Catholics do, but an ancient Christian celebration (begun in 380 AD, I’m told) that is growing in popularity among ordinary evangelicals like me.

For some reason, a lot of people ask us (my wife and I) about Advent. It’s probably because it’s kind of strange to our area and the traditions we grew up in. Sometime, I’d like to write more about this season and link to some favorite books and articles about it. But today, I’d just like to briefly share one reason we love it.

It gives us an intentionality we need to focus on the glory of God in Christ.

Like most people, we’re easily distracted and can be prone to “go with the flow” unless we intentionally, directly do something different. There’s a lot of common grace in the Christmas Season, and I’m thankful for that. But so much of it, as is well-documented/lamented, is counter-productive to our aims. The Advent season marks a graceful antithesis with the world system and the emptiness that it offers. We do gifts, stockings, trees, etc., so don’t get the wrong idea. In fact, we love all that stuff and feel like it only really makes sense in a Christian world. Otherwise, it just rings hollow. But materialism always makes a holiday into a hollow-day.

Is that the worst play on words ever? I’m not sure we can know the answer to that, but it feels like it.

And speaking of holidays (holy days). Please don’t buy into the “War on Christmas” hype. So much of the political, social-media, TV-run moralism offers us a fight that we don’t need for ratings, anger, and attention they crave.

Advent-then-Christmas is a time when almost the entire world is presented with great blasts of light. Don’t walk in front of that and get cranky because a store employee says “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas!”

The customer is not always right-eous. There’s no need to campaign for pagans to keep a tame Christ in Christmas. Just let us keep Christ before us, above us, behind us, below us, as our brother Patrick said. Let’s get surrounded by Christ and not by ginned up political pettiness.

Remember mercy? Remember, mercy.

Instead of being petty, or going with the flow, why don’t we just live on purpose? Be beautiful, people. If we’re in Christ, then everything is ours. Advent is a reminder of the coming that broke open the floodgates of mercy and a focus on that coming again which will cover the earth in the rule of Christ the King.

We love practicing Advent because it’s life on purpose. It’s a named thing, a shaped and placed thing that helps us be who we are.


  1. Wonderful post. I always forget about Advent until you remind me. And it was always part of our Methodist tradition growing up.

    By the way, these 6:00 pm posts are freaking me out. I’m always about to shut down my computer at work and BAM! Smith posts something interesting and I’m obliged to read it.

  2. Thank you Sam for this excellent post! The association of Advent with keeping Christ purposely before us at this increasingly hectic time of year is excellent. We are so easily distracted by trivialities and the weekly observance of Advent is a wonderful way to “re-center” our focus on the only important part of this season. It’s not a matter of keeping Christ in Christmas, so much as keeping Christ as the pivotal point around which everything in our lives revolves no matter what the season. I find it so easy to have my focus distracted, and greatly appreciate any reminders that settle me and reinforce the truly important. Have a wonderful holiday with your family!

  3. Great thoughts. This is my favorite time of year to be part of a liturgical church that views this season as one to, as you put it, live on purpose.
    I also appreciated your thoughts on moving past Christmas as another front of the culture war, viewing the season not as an occasion for yet another evangelical polemic, but instead as an opportunity to live our own lives in such a way that they reflect the great purpose of God in sending his Son.

  4. This is great, Sam, and while I admittedly don’t know what Advent is, the past few Christmas seasons have had me scratching my head toward the uproar that is Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays (or worse yet, Merry Xmas). It’s true, I’ve sent out many a Christmas card that instead said “Happy Holidays.” In my mind, that was a way of including well wishes for the New Year, as well. It’s also true I’ve caught myself thinking twice before doing that in more recent years because I don’t want to be taken wrongly. But it just feels like a high horse to me when people write the Christ part in ALL CAPS to make their point. “I keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas.” Okay. But what gets lost when, instead of receiving a bit of kindness in the form of a stranger’s “Happy Holidays,” we bah humbug their friendly smile and festive gesture? “Your holiday cheer’s not good enough for my righteous ears!” That’s just a bad attitude. There’s a bigger issue that gets lost behind the inconsequential media fluff.

  5. Mrs. Cochrane,

    Wow, I’m so honored to have a comment from you! Thank you and thanks for the kind words. I think you were my first art teacher (and last?).

    Peace to you.

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