It’s hard to believe that the Christmas season is already here. Autumn feels like a distant memory, and as soon as the Thanksgiving meal was eaten and the dishes were put up, out came the Christmas decorations. In fact, I saw a lot of homes decorated for Christmas two weeks before Thanksgiving!
I don’t mind, though. I love Christmas. I love the nostalgia it brings. I love the lights and the decorations. I love getting together with family and friends. I love the giving of gifts and the excitement of Christmas morning that I see in my children. It’s warm. It’s cozy. It’s familiar.
But most of all, I love celebrating and remembering how God lavished on us the greatest Christmas gift of all time in Jesus. I love telling and hearing the story of God’s love. The story of a journey that began at creation. The story of hope that God gave to His people in a coming Messiah. The story of hope fulfilled in the birth of a baby.
That’s what Advent is about. It’s a time to slow down in the midst of what the world has made into a very busy season, and remember. To marvel again at the mystery of the ages revealed in the most unlikely of places to the most unlikely of people. The fulfillment of ages of hoping and waiting is ushered in by an ordinary couple and a group of sheep herders on a quiet Bethlehem night. It’s the stuff movies are made of, but it’s not a great fictional drama played out on the big screen; it’s the simple, beautiful truth.
I love Advent because it’s where our stories intersect. You may not share the same sentiment as I do about Christmas. In fact, you might dread Christmas each year. I have friends for whom Christmas is an annual reminder of something painful in their lives.
Advent represents something different. It’s a reminder of what’s real, no matter what circumstances we may experience during this season. It’s a reminder of Emmanuel - God With Us. The Creator of the universe, the King of Kings has entered into His creation; our humanity. He’s fulfilling a history long promise of restoration. He’s drawing us near. He’s holding out hope to you and to me.
So, what are you hoping for this Christmas? My prayer is that through the celebration of Advent this season, you’ll find renewed hope in the Good News of Great Joy that the angels heralded so many years ago. That you’ll draw near to the God of hope, who has drawn near to you in Jesus.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Advent at Home
Whether you’re single, newlyweds, empty nesters or a family with lots of kiddos, you can celebrate Advent at home. Here are a few ideas to help you engage in the season.
1. Make an Advent wreath. It’s a simple wreath of evergreens (real or artificial) with four colored candles (traditionally 3 purple and 1 pink) and one white candle. (you can use any color you have on hand, though). Each purple candle represents the first three weeks of Advent (Hope, Peace, Joy), and pink the fourth (Love). The white candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Day and it represents Christ, the Light of the World. Light a candle at the beginning of each week of Advent as a visual reminder of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love all of which are fulfilled in Christ
(Side note: There’s nothing magical or mystical about an Advent wreath. It won’t make you fly or give you good luck. It will, however, reinforce your remembrance. Any time we engage more than one sense while we’re learning, it reinforces that teaching. It makes a greater impression on us, and we retain it. I think we’d all agree that the Good News is something we all want to remember.)
2. Read the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah in Luke Chapter 1. Use it as an opportunity to reflect on and/or discuss hope. What were Elizabeth and Zechariah hoping for? Had they given up hope? How did God show himself faithful. What are you hoping for? Have you given up hope? How is God showing himself faithful, even as you wait? Pray that God will open your eyes to what He is doing in the waiting.
3. For deeper study here are a few options for daily Advent devotionals (click the titles to visit these resource sites):