Christmas has always been the highest on my list of favorite holidays.
It’s a magical time of year. The glowing lights, gift wrapping, shopping, classic movies, hot chocolate, cozy winter pajamas, family traditions, and special baking leave a sense of ready cheer and lightheartedness that is hard to “muster up” at other times of the year.
These aspects of Christmas are nice; however, I began learning eight years ago that this season can have a much deeper meaning than festive happiness and warm fuzzies.
Instead, there is heavenly joy to be had along with the benefits of celebrating.
I began observing advent by reading The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp. My mom joined me one year—and we have been doing it together ever since.
Starting December 1st until the 25th, Ann’s devotionals and questions guide the soul through Bible stories—thoughtfully examining the truth of God’s redemptive love for us by coming to earth as a vulnerable baby until He ultimately poured out His deepest affection on the Cross:
“And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception).” – John 1:14, AMP
“And walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.” -Ephesians 5:2, AMP
Abiding in Immanuel
My heart has learned to crave the steady flow of proclaimed Truth. The quiet moments of contemplation and examination my Advent practice provides. Perhaps the promise that resonates within my core the most every year is the comfort of God literally being “with us.” With me. Immanuel…
“’Behold, the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’—which, when translated, means, ‘God with us.’” – Matthew 1:23 AMP
I read a quote the other Sunday by Her True Worth on Instagram that says: “There is never a moment or situation that I am without my Heavenly Father.”
Focusing on the reality of His abiding nearness—praying—creates serenity and joy that washes away hectic anxiety during a full holiday season:
“…The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].” – Philippians 4:5b-7, AMP
Gratefully, I believe God guided me to take advent just a step further this year—elevating the experience of peace, joy, and comfort aforementioned. I eagerly purchased “Jesse Tree” ornaments from Ann Voskamp’s son and daughter-in-law which are designed to accompany her devotional and children’s book each day of advent leading up to Christmas Day. I opened the package to find a wooden box full of twenty-five wooden ornaments in the shape of snowflakes, each one with brightly colored Biblical images in the center. I’m excited for my space to be transformed into a reminder of the real reason for this glorious, precious season. I hope to get a star of Bethlehem to go atop the tree to mirror the spiritual theme.
Remember Where it All Began
It is a privilege to share a glimpse of my advent journey because I hope as many people as possible can find fulfillment in quiet moments experiencing the loveliness of Christ at Christmas.
Does the idea of slowing down to soak up God’s promises which bring peace as well as “comfort and joy” sound like a welcome practice to you?
Well, friend, know that it is never too late to begin the tradition of observing advent! Please join me—join other believers around the world—in worshiping our Savior.
There are many devotionals to choose from. One that has caught my eye is the newly released Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always by Ruth Chou Simons. I have not held this book in my hands, but I have seen people thumb through the beautiful pages interspersed with Ruth’s artwork. It seems to be a well-balanced combination of the Word and mini watercolor masterpieces. Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu also sounds good!
It is easy to get lost in the flurry of activities, so being intentional to set aside time is so important when observing Advent. But don’t fret if some devotional days are skipped and have to be “caught up” on.Observing advent does not have to be done perfectly, nor does it have to be fancy. It’s just fixing our hearts and minds on Christ instead of material things. Click To Tweet
Observing advent does not have to be done perfectly, nor does it have to be fancy.
It’s just fixing our hearts and minds on Christ instead of material things (see Hebrews 12:2; Luke 10:27). It’s coming to Him with our wounds and brokenness for the balm of His healing touch as we get back to the heart of our faith—where it all began—His coming (see Psalm 147:3).
Whether our approach is short and sweet or longer and deeper— He will welcome us into His arms, as we spend time at His feet this December.