Book Review: Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder

This is a book review of Advent Conspiracy, released in 2009, by Zondervan. Though organized like a book, more than an engaging read, Advent Conspiracy is a resource for leading small groups, sermon series and discussions as part of the Advent Conspiracy Movement. This book was written by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder.

Book Review: Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder
The Advent Conspiracy, as a movement, was started when the authors realized how much we – as followers of Jesus - miss it (or God’s heart and example) every year at Christmas. They share that the story of Christmas has now become “consumption and consumerism.”[1] As a result, the world is missing out on “the prophetic mystery of Jesus’ birth,” a birth that “means missing God-with-us, God beside us- God becoming one of us.”[2] As the authors began to lament and discuss the way they, as pastors, felt like the Christmas story was being undermined and missed, they launched an experiment to try and invite their churches (and other churches) into the nativity story as participants.[3] That invitation to the nativity story started with a question, “can Christmas still change the world?” and this experiment looked to answer that question locally and globally, by finding ways to consume less at Christmas, but make an effort to share the reigning goodness and good news of God more with our neighbors and hurting world. Their experiment challenged participants to see how the story of Advent reminds us to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all.[4]  The book not only tells the story of the movement, but also stories from the movement (stories of Christmas still changing the world locally and globally), and this book serves to resource small groups, sermon series, and discussions around the Advent Conspiracy movement. As a resource, this book challenges the narrative of consumerism and consumption that has taken over Christmas, undermining and disconnecting us from the story of how a liberating and simple hope, peace, love and joy came within our reach.

This read challenges us to replace material presents with the gift of presence.[5] It gives us an invitation and challenge to give more of our time, talents, love, and ultimately of ourselves.[6] It calls for us to push back on the dominant culture of our day, and to “refuse to be defined by our culture.”[7] Through the Advent Conspiracy, we are reminded that “the story of God’s Son entering our world is the point of our worship and celebration each Christmas. Because of his great love, God moved into the neighborhood and now we have hope.”[8] It also helps us realize that “God is still moving into the neighborhood! The Incarnation isn’t about only the one glorious moment in history when Jesus walked this earth – it’s also about a God who still wants to make an appearance in this world through his followers.”[9] By being co-conspirators of the Advent Conspiracy, we realize “the Advent of Christ is an opportunity to declare to the world that God has given us the greatest gift. Advent Conspiracy exists to help the church awaken, realign with God’s movement, and worship Jesus wholly at Christmas – and thus be transformed by the God of Advent.”[10]

It was over a decade ago that I first encountered the Advent Conspiracy. Since experiencing it in a small Vineyard Church in Lancaster Pennsylvania, I realize that this series not only changed how our family celebrates – and sees - Christmas, but it also has become an invitation that I have led as a series in several other church contexts of various theological backgrounds. Over the years, I have read this book several times – though I am just finally getting around to reviewing it. As a book, Advent Conspiracy is an easy read, thought-provoking, but not overly intense or revolutionary. As a book it is a simple invitation and challenge to become aware of how we celebrate Christmas and to test if how we are celebrating Christmas – as followers of Jesus –is really changing the world, and being an effective co-conspirator of the first Christmas story.

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Highlights & Quotes

[1] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 9.

[2] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 10.

[3] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 11.

[4] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 11.

[5] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 12.

[6] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 12.

[7] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 16.

[8] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 94.

[9] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 95.

[10] Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 97.

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