Planning for When Advent Should Begin

We gather, connect, and serve so all may experience the love of Christ.

By Rev. Lynn Bartlow, Lead Pastor

The cat is out of the bag.
You figured out our secret.
Yes, we started Advent early.

Do a quick google search and you will find Advent has been observed in some way or another since the 480s or so. It’s looked like different things over the years as traditions evolved and morphed. Our current traditions more or less started around the 13th century, although fasting and wearing black was much more prominent then! (Check out Wikipedia if you want a really long article about it!)

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, observed Advent, but the practice was abandoned by the Methodist church during most of the 1800s. It was recaptured by the mid-1900s, but by then, our cultural practices meant that the Christmas season is expected to be from Thanksgiving to the 31st, not the 12 days of Christmas that begin on December 25. You can read more about Advent from the United Methodist perspective HERE.

Today, there is a movement among some in the church to actually have a longer Advent, with some moving Advent to a seven-week observance. NPR did an interesting story about that recently, found HERE.

While planning this season, the pastors here at St. Mark’s chose to begin Advent a week earlier than the usual four weeks. This will allow us to have four Sundays of Advent, followed by Christmas Eve, which is on a Sunday this year. We honestly wanted four Sundays of Advent, and know that most people won’t come to church twice on Christmas Eve. We wanted to accommodate our Lessons and Carols service in the morning on Christmas Eve instead of doing Advent 4 and Christmas Eve on the same day. There are so many reasons we chose this!

In doing a quick poll on Facebook, I discovered more than 100 United Methodist Churches pastored by women who also started Advent a week early. The Cathedral of the Rockies and the Church of the Resurrection both started Advent a week early. We are in good company!

Ultimately, Advent is a tool to help us prepare for Christ. No matter how we observe this tradition, I pray that you find room in your heart and life for Christ. Don’t let the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of Christmas pass you by in a blur. Take notice, and welcome the Christ child.

Join us Sunday as we ponder the gift of sound, the peace Christ brings, and how communion fits into our season.

See you soon,
Pastor Lynn


• 8:30 and 10 a.m. Traditional service in Magee Campus sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
• 10 a.m. Modern service at Sanctuary Campus
• 10 a.m. Magee Campus youth and children’s Sunday School (except fifth Sundays) and child care
• 10 a.m. Traditional service livestream premieres on YouTube and Website

Worship online at 10 a.m. on Sundays at or YouTube UMC St. Mark’s AZ. You can also watch the service at a later time.