Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
It’s here! The Christmas season is upon us. The shopping, the music, Christmas trees, decorations, gift giving, parties – so much too do and so little time.
For many of us Christmas is an amazing time of year. Buying gifts is our jam and the energy that comes with the season is invigorating. Christmas presents are wrapped early, five trees are perfectly decorated, and the garland is wrapping the staircase by Thanksgiving. There is not much about the holidays these joy-filled persons do not like. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, they are all in. These individuals get energy from people and live for the holidays to the point where depression sets in when the New Year hits.
Still others carry the constant movement and expectations of the season as a burden. The joy of giving is hampered by the knowledge of limited resources, and the constant demand of time is draining. These people may love the idea of Christmas, but in some ways are ready for the end even when it’s the beginning. And they are not “baa humbug” people – often they are just tired and weary.
Many of us fall in the middle of those two end of the holiday-loving spectrum. We love Christmas and the joy of the season. We enjoy the gift giving, but do not tend to extreme purchases. Each Christmas season is a struggle for balance, for giving to our family in a way that demonstrates generosity and yet stewardship. That shows joy without the expectation of high material demands. We are especially ready for time with family and friends, but then breathe a sigh of relief when the time passes with limited drama.
Christmas is an amazing time of year, not just because of what we have made of it, but because of what it represents to us as Christians. It is tempting to make Jesus a side note to the excitement and hustle and bustle, we tend to pay attention to the miracle of his birth at Christmas Eve Services or when reading Luke 2 on Christmas day (all good things – I’m certainly not knocking either of those).
But what if there is a way to consider the birth of Jesus leading up to Christmas - to take a moment each day to meditate on what the joy of his birth means to us, to the world? Well, there is! Besides spending time in God's Word - hoping we all make an effort to do that each day as much as possible - there is also Advent.
"The Advent season is a four week period before Christmas that celebrates the anticipation and coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The origin of "advent" is from the Latin word adventus which simply translates "coming" or "arrival". Not only is the Christian meaning for preparation and celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ, his birth at Christmas, but also to celebrate the new life when someone accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, and lastly, the anticipation of Jesus returning again." (Excerpt from www.crosswalk.com).
I am not good at remembering Advent myself. Devotions often gets lost in the business of Christmas, and all the activities that come along with adding things to an already full calendar. However, it’s never too late to decide to spend a little more time focusing on the reason for the season.
Advent includes the first four Sundays and weekdays before the Christmas Day celebration, and is a wonderful way for families to prepare to celebrate Christ's birth together. Each Sunday is marked by lighting a candle, and each candle has a special meaning. The first candle represents Hope, the second Faith (or preparation), the third Joy, and the fourth symbolizes Peace.
Just like most things, using Advent as a way to focus on the season can take on a life of it's own as well. There are amazing and creative ways to celebrate Advent in our homes and churches. Tara at her Feels Like Home Blog has some engaging and creative ways to bless our kids with learning about Jesus leading up to Christmas. And of course, trusty Pinterest has some creative Advent calendar ideas for families to work through with devotions for each of the first 25 days of December.
Just remember, even Advent can take over our lives and feel like a burden if we forget its PURPOSE. Hopefully we can enjoy a time of devotion leading up to our celebration of Jesus' birth without it causing stress and anxiety. Instead, let's simply tell ourselves to take a moment each day and breathe, remember why we celebrate Christmas, and light a candle or two as a purposeful time of reflection. If nothing else, it helps us slow down for a moment and turn our eyes to our Creator, the one who made us, and his Son, the one who saves us.
Today on our Noisy Narratives Podcast we talk about Thanksgiving conversations, supply chain issues, stressful relationships during the holidays, and a little bit of hope, faith, joy and peace as we begin December. Enjoy the Christmas season everyone!