One windy, chilly night in November as my dad worked on our cars in the driveway, we reminisced about Christmas memories. I talked fondly about three things I loved as a child: Fresh Christmas trees, cutting sugar cookies into festive shapes, then baking and decorating them with red and green sugar crystals, plus a cake to celebrate Jesus’ birthday complete with candles, if I remember right. My parents wanted to convey the true meaning of the season with that cake, and all these years later, it is still a poignant recollection.
Overcoming Holiday Madness with the True Meaning of Christmas
Don’t you love the nostalgia of the holiday season? Although fun, Christmas can be one furious whirlwind of busyness and cheer. Lots of happiness, but also stress to get all the presents bought and wrapped. There’s the goodies to be baked or parties to attend and a Christmas to-do list a mile long.
It can be hard to alleviate the adrenaline of rushing.
There is one practice, however, that leaves me full of hope and wonder in my Christian walk during this “most wonderful time of the year.”
What exactly is advent? Google breaks it down simply for us as, “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” The word advent comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming.” But the glory of advent is not simply in what is coming, but in who has come.
Christmas is certainly a notable event as we take time to pause, ushering in the remembrance of the person of Christ becoming flesh for us as a baby (John 1:14; Isaiah 7:14). It’s a tremendous infinite truth that’s hard to wrap our finite minds around: that the royal King of kings left heaven to become poor so we could inherit His wealth (2 Corinthians 8:9). From the very start of His life until the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus gave such a gift to humanity by sinlessly, flawlessly dealing with all the challenges and temptations we face in this cursed world (Hebrews 4:15; Romans 8:22) before giving up His life for us on the cross, providing the way of salvation and eternal life.This powerful truth of a baby who became the sacrifice for our sins is at the core of what advent is all about—the Savior. The Coming One. Jesus. Click To Tweet
This powerful truth of a baby who became the sacrifice for our sins is at the core of what advent is all about—the Savior. The Coming One. Jesus.
Maybe observing advent is something you already do—and that’s awesome! But if you want to take even more steps to ensure this December is extra meaningful…
To keep Jesus at the forefront of our minds, my mom and I have developed the tradition of reading, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp together starting December first until the twenty-fifth.
There are many advent devotionals you can choose from such as Susie Larson’s Prepare Him Room, or Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp. The main idea is to pick one and immerse yourself in the beautiful story of Jesus’ coming as Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23).
However, observing advent can go beyond reading a devotional. Here are eight activities that can help turn our eyes toward Jesus as we approach Christmas.
1. Give to a charity or nonprofit (Sixty Feet holiday catalog or Operation Christmas Child are two options)
2. Attend a Christmas Eve communion or candlelight service
3. Serve others by helping with holiday baking or cooking
4. Wrap gifts to alleviate family stress during crunch time
5. Anonymously contribute to someone in need
6. Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home (if Covid restrictions aren’t a problem).
7. Bake Christmas cookies for your neighbors and go caroling in your neighborhood. You can include a card that explains the gospel and possibly an invitation to church.
8. Read the Christmas story in Luke 2 aloud with your family or friends.
Hearts Prepared for Christmas
As I go about celebrating this season with traditions like watching classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life, eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve or cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, or opening gifts, I hope the sparkling warmth and loveliness of that time sinks in a little bit extra since my heart has been prepared—opened wide—to receive the gifts God gives of family and most importantly of Himself (John 3:16).
Perhaps you are calling to mind Christmas traditions of your own? May the joy of the season seep deeply into the crevices of your soul. I hope you savor it, unhurried, unrushed, unstressed!
May our inner hearts be like the stable in Bethlehem—a place welcome for Jesus to dwell (Ephesians 3:17). He desires nothing more than to be known as our Savior (2 Peter 3:9). From His first willing breath as a baby until His final breath on the Cross, He has had us in mind, giving His life away (Galatians 2:20). He defeated death and rose from the grave, later to ascend back to heaven, where He’s preparing a place for us (2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:4; John 14:3). We need only cry out to Him for salvation from our sins (Romans 10:13). He will save.
Maybe this Christmas you can receive the best present of all—Jesus—who gives Himself freely, lavishly, passionately to this whole entire world and for every being who ever lived (Ephesians 5:1-2). As Mary says in The Nativity Story, “He is for all mankind.” If you already know Jesus, may He refresh the joy of His salvation during this special season (Psalm 51:12).