Advent in the PCA

Discussion in 'Church Calendar and Pretended Holy Days' started by Bill The Baptist, Nov 30, 2016.

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  1. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    As a lifelong Baptist, advent is a completely foreign notion to me, and I am aware that most of those who hold to the RPW would also eschew such ritual. My question pertains to the observation of advent within reformed denominations such as the PCA. I would assume that most PCA members on this board would be opposed to observing advent, however a friend of mine who is a PCA pastor recently posted on Facebook that he was beginning an advent sermon series. Is advent commonly observed in the PCA and similar denominations? Or is my friend merely an outlier?
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The PCA church I was previously a member of, did.
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Here in Central Florida I strongly suspect all the PCA churches celibate advent. I know our local assembly, or should I say the vast majority, does with a vigor that rivals any RC, or Episcopal church.

    What I find interesting, and oh so sad, we will not have a tree in the sanctuary but have wreaths, and candles all under the "normative" principle. The sheer inadvertent hypocritical practice of this befuddles and saddens me every "advent" season.
  4. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    The SBC church I grew up in practiced advent, including the lighting of the advent candle in the worship service. The last PCA I attended did do incarnation-related messages in the weeks leading up to "Christmas," but did not do any extra traditions like decorating the place of worship, candles, etc.
  5. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    The vast majority of conservative Presbyterian churches in America take a tack on worship that is more consistent with Richard Hooker than George Gillespie.
  6. Edm

    Edm Puritan Board Freshman

    My old PCA church is doing a sermon series on Christmas. The SBC that I am attending now is not.
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Exactly; if you factor in everything from simply having one advent sermon around 25 December and nothing more to the full smells and bells and sacred significant will worship such as the candle ceremonies, not observing is the exception in the PCA; observing the rule.
  8. Frosty

    Frosty Puritan Board Sophomore

    My church is pretty heavy on it, much to my chagrin. I'd guess that a majority observe it at least in some sense.
  9. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    Most, if not all, PCA churches near me observe Advent.
  10. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    what is the Advent season? As have never celebrated that, as have been in AOG, and now Baptist church...
  11. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore


    Blue piece of pie at the top.
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    So I guess we should say at least during ordinary time no will worship is going on;:rolleyes: thanks I've never seen that.
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Out of curiosity, was this a fairly liberal church?

    Until recently, it was generally only liberal leaning Baptists who would do this. But in recent years some have developed a fascination with "liturgical" worship.
  14. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I'd be shocked if the vast majority of PCA congregations do not observe it. I've traveled around a good bit over the past 10 years for work and have visited PCA churches often. I can only think of one PCA congregation I've attended that I'm sure doesn't do it.

    Generally speaking, the ones that don't take exception to the Westminster Standards on the 2nd and 4th commandments are the ones that won't do Advent either.
  15. USNCerGuard

    USNCerGuard Puritan Board Freshman

    I pastor a small church in a rural community, surrounded by Roman Catholic "churches" and mostly mainline, liberal Protestant ones. Most of them, as expected, engage in celebrating the Advent season, to one degree or another.

    I've been here for four-plus years now and for the first couple of years had to explain why I, as a full subscription elder, was convinced from Scripture that the use of Advent candles, or anything of that nature, was forbidden from Scripture via the Regulative Principle of Worship.

    From time to time I still get pushback on this, even from one of my elders. The line of argumentation goes like this. I tried to be as kind and pastoral during these talks with folks, even if the exact wording wasn't exactly like what follows:

    Advent Proponent: "Why don't we use Advent candles on Sundays before Christmas?"

    Me: "Because we confess that the Lord alone commands the proper worship of Himself and He has not commanded such things from the Scriptures. To not command something is to forbid it."

    Advent Proponent: "But XXX PCA Church does it. In fact, most PCA churches do something like this? Why are you being divisive in your views when they are obviously in the minority?"

    Me: "Can you show me from the Scriptures, either explicitly or deduced from good and necessary consequence, where we are commanded to light candles during corporate, public worship?"

    Advent Proponent: "Well, no, but the Bible doesn't say we can't do it."

    Me: "OK, so what you've just done is rejected the Regulative Principle of Worship that we believe the Scriptures teach and is summarized by our Confessional Standards. What you've done is adopted the Normative Principle of Worship. But if you want to do that then you have to allow for the person who wants me to wear a propellor beanie hat during worship to have an equally valid view as your Advent candles. Because if God doesn't determine what proper worship is then man does, and I'm not sure you really want to go down that road."

    Advent Proponent: "Why are you being so dogmatic about this? What can it hurt? Our tradition is to do this." (Never mind that it really isn't, after speaking with others.)

    Me: "'What can it hurt?' It seems to me that this is as clear cut example of strange fire. Nadab and Abihu offered worship that was not commanded by God and they were killed for it. Now, I don't expect the Lord to strike us down if we were to do this, even though I'm not going to test that, but I will say that I am convinced from Scripture that God has forbidden this by not explicitly commanding candle-lighting during worship for any reason."

    Advent Proponent: "I just don't see why we can't do this. Other churches do it. I want some sort of tradition to pass along to my children."

    At this point, I usually smile and say, "But you have that tradition available to you. It's a tradition, to use your word, of consistent attendance of the gathering of the saints every Lord's Day for worship that is established and commanded by God."

    But that's not enough for some people. And sadly, the PCA has, by its adoption of good faith subscription, fed the urge for man-made traditions. Further, it's actually undercut its elders who confess fully the Westminster Standards, given them less of a practical leg to stand on because the argument is usually "well, other PCA churches do it and you can't bind them to your view of the Standards," and turned the tables to make the full subscription elder the problem and not the practical rejection of the Westminster Standards.

    Most of my congregation understand where I'm coming from and have accepted the argumentation regarding this. A couple of folks, however, who feel strongly enough to try to wear me down on the subject, and as discouraging as that can be, I understand where they're coming from and why the seek to do it. That makes it a bit easier to be more pastoral and less tense about our conversations.
  16. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    The OPC where I am currently a member observes it and I respectfully disagree.
  17. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I recall a post by Andy Webb about 10 years ago in which he referred to "Episcoterian Worship." What he meant was that by the early-mid 20th Century, the worship in most of the Protestant churches in America looked pretty much the same and that they were operating from the normative principle. Similar hymns with few if any Psalms, the Apostles Creed, the Doxology, the Gloria Patri, Advent (if not the whole calendar) and so on.

    Several years ago I visited an EPC church that referred to its traditional service as "traditional Reformed worship." My apologies to them if I'm forgetting something that was distinctively Reformed about it, but it was very similar to the United Methodist services of my youth, albeit with much better preaching. So what is regarded as "traditional" by many people who have been in Presbyterian churches for a long time isn't distinctively Reformed at all.
  18. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The PCA really has left off being a faithful Presbyterian church defining faithful as being Presbyterian in the doctrines that historically distinguished them from other Reformed, Anglicans and Lutherans. Andy Webb calls the PCA *Episcoterian.
    *great minds think alike as they say.
  19. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

  20. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    My old PCA church did it

    My current SBC church is doing it (Hes a YRR type)

    But, Im starting do feel like Im deplorable if I do celebrate advent... You all have given me much thought and fodder
  21. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The goal is not to feel deplorable. As one reminded me in another forum, while we take issue with other communions on their errors such as Romanists and others that observe holy days, they at least are consistent with their own principles. For some reason (and I think it is because man loves to hate the truth), Presbyterians always seem to be defecting from and acting inconsistent with their doctrine as historically given in the Westminster standards.
  22. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  23. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    I think it would identify as being conservative. Maybe slightly more free with roles of women than some SBC churches, but definitely politically conservative and in a conservative area. There wasn't really anything else high church about the worship. Pastor went to NOBTS as it was the most conservative during a period of liberalism in the SBC.
  24. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    At least the Advent sermon last Sunday was from Genesis and the one next Sunday is from Isaiah.
  25. Clark-Tillian

    Clark-Tillian Puritan Board Freshman

    For some years late in seminary and early in my ministry I was leaning heavily in an Angloterian direction. The fact is most PCA churches THINK they celebrate Advent, but it's really an extended Christmas season. Technically, Advent is akin to Lent, whereas Christmas is akin to Easter. Advent is to be a time of solemn reflection on the horrifying reality that the Incarnation of Our Lord was an act of utter amazement (to us) and debasement (for Him). "Advent" in most PCA churches is a time of jolly feasting. Even if you're an EP advocate read the lyrics to true Advent hymns and compare them to Christmas hymns. Vast difference. Many of my fellow PCA colleagues are liturgically challenged in any direction you look. They put up a Christmas tree (brutally pagan in a church); light the Advent candles(brutal violation of the 2nd Word); and sing "Christmas Carols" throughout. If you're going to go in that direction then at least go all the way. Three years ago, I went full-board anti-Advent liturgically, and wrote a rather long defense of my position to the Session, which agreed with me. It did cause a stir. I do not do special sermon series, although I mention Christ's humanity often in the sermon---but I do that all year long as I think it's a missing cog in our practical ministry. We decorate the church slightly, but we do that seasonally anyway, so I look at nice lighting in the church and wreaths on the exterior door as mere aesthetics and publicly note that. We do sing the traditional "Christmas carols", but I'm not EP, so I do not have a problem with the better ones. I choose all the hymns and weed out the awful, saccharine ones. I also like to point out the abysmal theology of some faves: "No crying He makes"? Seriously? Human babies cry because they cannot talk! Christ was/is fully human. So he cried when He was a baby. I combat the disgusting sentimentality of it all by pointing out that the Incarnation and Birth are terrifying historical realities. That the Birth was painful for Mary, and that a carpenter (Joseph) likely acted as midwife in the middle of a fetid barn-like structure. I find that if I discuss the reality of the humanity of Christ, it nullifies the sentiment around the season. But I do not do a series of sermons on it.
  26. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    They have the advent wreath and candles at the EPC church we've been attending. But they appear to be carrying on with their series preaching through Acts. I think there may only be a handful of sermons left, so perhaps there will be a special sermon or two if it is wrapped up by Dec 18 or before then.

    Speaking of the calendar, the one that really gets me is the Baptists who are into Lent nowadays. I'm sure some of the PCA types have jumped aboard that train too, but I've seen a number of Baptists do it in the past few years.
  27. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I don't think of this as a PCA phenomenon. It's more of a middle-class evangelical phenomenon, which of course describes many PCA congregations. It's an offshoot of liturgical, church-calendar traditions that appeals to American evangelicals in general, who like Christmas and anything kid-friendly at Christmastime.

    In my experience, the lighting of a candle around a wreath is the most common practice, and it's often paired with a brief talk aimed especially at the children, or is led each week by a family with kids. Those in charge of family/children's programs in the church are often assigned to coordinate the time or provide content, so I hear from folks looking for good things to say. They come from all kinds of denominations.

    I appreciate the attempt to incorporate children and families into worship, and the desire that the time be theologically rich, even if I wouldn't necessarily use the same methods.
  28. NickCamp

    NickCamp Puritan Board Freshman

    My church does Advent, and we're baptist. Though, we don't do the ritual candles or things like that. We do some of the "calls" whatever those are officially called where we affirm truths out loud as a body.
  29. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I grew up IFB, and so anything that seemed even remotely Catholic we avoided like the plague. Even within the SBC, only the more liberal leaning ones seem to celebrate advent. That could be changing in the future as more Baptists are influenced by the likes of John Piper.
  30. NickCamp

    NickCamp Puritan Board Freshman

    I can't say I have much experience on the topic. However, my church is very conservative and strict on doctrine and sound. I agree with your statement on Catholicism, and I do the same, which should tell you somewhat how our advent is different. It is centered more on the affirmations as a body, focusing on the event of Christ's coming, and re-centering (best way to put it, maybe?). Like I said though, I'm not familiar with the inner workings of the IFB or SBC or what have you. John Piper is considered a baptist?
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