This is the first time in several years that I’m actually looking forward to the Christmas season. I know that’s not terribly “Christian” of me to say, but hear me out.
Two years ago, for whatever reason, I officially became burned-out on the cultural overwhelm demanded of us during the season. Be it through well-meaning blog posts, outside obligations on our calendar, or the stores bombarding me with more, more, more — I was tapped. Done. I needed a break.
Last year, our family traveled, and even though we paused to recognize both Thanksgiving and Christmas, they were kept ridiculously simple. We had no extended family pressures, no cultural surroundings that took decor and kitschy music to eleven, or even extra room in our backpacks for more than a few small gifts. Last year’s togetherness was a balm to my soul, so weary was I from our typical, westernized approach to the season.
So now, after a brief hiatus, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to it.
I’m truly thankful for our holiday heritage as followers of Christ. So this year, my deliberate, intentional recognition of Advent — as a real, bonafide season in the Christian calendar — will hopefully create an ever-growing stream of celebration, one drip, drip, drip of water at a time, until the overflowing river of Christmas celebration come December 25.
I like Rachel Telander’s thought on Advent in Let Us Keep the Feast:
“Advent is one of the hardest seasons of the church year to celebrate in today’s culture. As soon as Thanksgiving arrives, we are bombarded by Christmas carols, Christmas decorations, Christmas everything. We are so saturated by Christmas that we often skip over one of the most important parts: the preparation. You wouldn’t throw a party without preparing the food and drinks; you wouldn’t visit a friend without getting ready. We are about to remember the most awe-inspiring thing that happened in the whole of history: God becoming man in the glory and mystery of the incarnation. We need to set aside time to prepare ourselves for this — internally and externally.”
Advent is a gift to us in the modern hectic world. Here’s why:
For one, we better remember what it was like to wait for the Messiah. Two thousand-plus years after Jesus’ earthly existence, it’s hard for us to imagine life not knowing when the God of the universe was going to finally send forth the Messiah people had been waiting for for centuries.
Pausing just a bit before the full-on celebration we anticipate on December 25 tempers our hearts as we remember that Jesus divinely entered humanity at a specific time in history. It sobers us in our own humanity.
I like what Haley Stewart says: “It is the opportunity to set your life by a different watch, by holy time.”
Advent also keeps the season of Christmas preparation on Jesus. So many people bemoan the secularization of the Christmas season, but recognizing Advent is such a simple way to go against that flow.
Whether we prepare our hearts through a Jesse tree, Advent wreath, or a simple evening devotional, drawing out the season of preparation can’t help but reorient our focus from all the gift-buying-cookie-baking-party-attending flurry towards the original, ancient reason for the upcoming holy-day.
Finally, and perhaps my favorite reason — it makes Christmas even merrier! We’re not recognizing Advent because we don’t like Christmas — we’re doing it because we love Christmas.
Keeping the season before December 25 about our heart’s preparation means that when the day comes for recognizing God Incarnate, the true Immanuel, it will be bonafide feast!
Let the sweet things fill our tables and let us be merry and glad, for God sent His Son to walk among us and bring forth the new era: when the curtain was torn and we became fully free from our sin. A true reason to celebrate!
I recently shared some ways our family will keep a simple Advent this year, including useful resources, books, and music to orient our hearts on the birth of the Messiah. Perhaps they’ll be a blessing to you as well?
We Americans have Thanksgiving on the horizon, and soon, the onslaught of Christmas will go full throttle. As you buy your gifts and prepare your home, don’t forget to prepare your hearts as well. Advent means arrival. The Son of God will arrive here on earth — He already did arrive on earth — and that, my friends, is a true reason to make merry.