Growing up, I loved Christmas season. December meant lights, decorations, gifts, family, and two weeks out of school. It was the most wonderful time for the year.
But, as life transitioned from college graduation to marriage to children, an uneasiness swelled up in my heart as December approached. The things I enjoyed as an adolescent contributed to the storm of uneasiness as an adult. Parties. Gifts. Decorations. Even family outings were stressful, as we had to divide time between two families “appropriately” (whatever that means).
As a teenager, with no responsibilities, expectations surrounding Christmas were huge. Anticipation built as the calendar inched closer to Christmas Day. And the day never seemed to disappoint. As an adult, however, the anticipation and expectations always felt empty. Christmas day never lived up to its enormous billing. For several years, I battled a legitimate case of the “Christmas blues.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching my boys open gifts. It really is better to give than receive. But, after the presents were put away, I found myself alone, disappointed, thinking, “Surely there is more to Christmas than this.”
Three years ago, while bracing myself for another underwhelming holiday season, I discovered something that changed Christmas.
I want to introduce you to the present that saved Christmas for me. I believe it will do the same for you.
What is Advent?
Advent is traditionally observed on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The word “Advent” simply means “arrival” or “coming.” For Christians, Advent refers to the arrival of Jesus Christ, God greatest gift to the world. For hundreds of years, God’s people waited eagerly for the Messiah. Then, in a small, sleepy town, in the most humble of circumstances, “the word became flesh.” The heavens opened, and God took the form of a man. The angels rejoiced! Emmanuel – God with us!
Today, much like the Israelites, we wait. Our hope is firmly placed in the inevitable return of Jesus. Advent is a time for remembering, rejoicing, watching, and holding to God’s promises.
Why should you observe Advent?
1.) Placing Jesus at the center of your holiday season adds meaning to everything else.
Family, gifts, decorations and holiday gatherings are shadows. Jesus is the substance. Shadows aren’t inherently bad. They are revealing. My shadow can tell you my presence is near. But my shadow is empty. If someone focuses on my shadow more than me, you would think they are stupid.
A similar thing happens during the holiday season. The events surrounding this season are good. For the most part. But they’re shadows. The joy of seeing family. The anticipation of Christmas day. These are shadows, designed to point you to the substance, Jesus Christ. If you focus more on the shadows than the substance, you won’t discover the fullness of this season. Jesus is the only one who can satisfy the weight of enormous expectations.
Observe Advent because it focuses on the substance, and adds meaning to the shadows.
2.) The demands surrounding this season can be overwhelming.
The increasing demands during the holiday season can be overwhelming. If you’re like me, you have something going on almost every night. Combining a packed schedule with life’s normal demands, and the result is often exhaustion and stress.
By the time the calendar flips to December 25th, you’re excited returned to the North Pole. You say, “I love the Christmas season, but I’m glad it’s over.”
What if you arrived at December 25th wanting more? Is it possible that your “I’m glad it’s over” attitude is a sign? It was for me. Advent focuses your thoughts around Jesus Christ, the only one who renews your tired heart and weary mind. Advent releases you from the burden of this season’s demands by aligning your sights on a manger, not a calendar.
3.) God can be trusted. His promises are always true.
When you focus on the shadows of Christmas, you miss something huge. The promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus.
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.1 Corinthians 1:20
Every promise finds its “yes” in Jesus. In other words, the birth of Jesus reminds you that every word of God is trustworthy. If God’s people could grasp this one reality, Satan wouldn’t have much of a kingdom on earth. If Christians could believe, I mean really believe, that EVERY word spoken from God is true, we would change the world. Overnight.
But if you’re like me, I read the promises in Scripture, I hear the promises from the pulpit, I pray the promises to God, but I don’t believe the promises. I don’t actually believe every word in Scripture is true. If so, I would let go of my comfort-driven, fear-controlled life. I would not care whether someone ridiculed me or killed me. To live would be gain and to die would be Christ. As it is, I wrestle with the promises, allowing my flesh to win most days.
Advent is about the arrival of Jesus. Emmanuel, “God with us.” Visible proof of a promise-keeping God. And, in a culture predicated on fear and a season driven by speed and materialism, we need this proof.
I know the transformative nature of Advent. I want you to experience a similar transformation. So, I created an Advent daily devotional guide. Everything you need to center your heart and mind around the substance of Christmas, Jesus Christ, is included in this guide.
This year’s theme is “Standing On The Promises.” If you sign up, you will receive a devotional every morning in your inbox, beginning November 29th, the first day of Advent (if you sign up after this day, you will receive your first devotional the following morning). Each day’s devo includes:
- A truth about God to guide your day
- Scriptures building on the day’s truth
- A reflection centered around the day’s truth and corresponding Scriptures
- A prayer as you prepare to transition into your day’s activities
In addition to the daily devotionals, each week has a theme undergirding the overall theme and tying together the daily readings.
Here are the weekly themes.
If you take a few minutes every day to soak in the divine truths of Christmas, I think God will do something amazing in your heart. Even if you love the holiday season the way it is, I challenge you to try Advent. I believe it will change how you see Jesus forever..
We serve a promise-keeping God. And one day, in a moment, Jesus will return. This time, death, brokenness, sin, and Satan will be forever divorced from God and every person who loves Him.
Until then, we wait. But we don’t passively wait. We wait with eager expectation, anticipation, and hope. We serve a God who ALWAYS keep his promises. That’s a gift worth opening and proclaiming to others!
I love you all. To God be the glory forever! Amen.