“[Christmas] means not just hope for the world, despite all its unending problems, but hope for you and me, despite all our unending failings.” Tim Keller
“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” C.S.Lewis
“Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” Dr. Seuss
Have you ever gone on vacation intending to use that time to grow spiritually only to head home afterwards realizing you neglected your spiritual walk? Vacation is a time I’d like to spend more time in the Word but the opposite usually happens. My normal rhythms are interrupted. The pace is fast and our schedule is full. There’s so much to see and do. Even during vacation it’s easy for your time alone with the Lord to get squeezed out. While the week ends up being a lot of fun, you arrive home feeling spiritually weak because you’ve neglected the most important thing.
My experience is that the Christmas season is similar. While we might acknowledge “Jesus is the reason for the season,” for many of us Jesus ends up taking a backseat during the season. We know it’s supposed to be about him and we had good intentions to focus on him, but it’s such a full and busy time. There’s shopping to get done, the house to decorate, parties and dinners to attend, cookies to be made, movies to be seen, and local festivities to enjoy. Like vacation, without an intentional plan, the Christmas or Advent season that’s supposed to point us towards Christ can easily become a time of neglecting him.
For that reason, I suggest committing to an Advent reading plan and building activities into your month that direct your hearts towards Christ. If it’s not intentional and if you don’t have a plan, it won’t happen. Rather than letting the season take over and direct your December, decide in advance how you will maximize it to grow in Christ.
That doesn’t mean you have to ignore all the joys of the holiday season. I love Christmas and all that comes with it. As a family, we try to enjoy as many of the holiday experiences, traditions, tastes, music, and movies we can. It’s a busy time with the activities and gatherings with church, family, and friends. Since there’s so much going on, each December we find a reading plan and Advent Calendar to make sure we are setting our hearts on Christ. The Advent Calendar almost always results in eating good chocolate and is eaten after we do the daily reading. No Bible, no chocolate. Those are the rules. It’s okay to incentive your Bible reading with a good gift of God like quality chocolate.
For those unfamiliar with the Church calendar, “Advent” comes from the Latin word for “coming” and marks a season of anticipation, waiting, and remembering. (Here’s a great intro to Advent.) It reminds us of Israel’s waiting for the Messiah to come to earth and all that the incarnation of Jesus meant and fulfilled. Even now, we await his return. It’s also a season of waiting because we anticipate the day of Christmas all month long. Rather than waiting until to December 25thto think about Jesus, a season of Advent prepares our hearts for worshipping and enjoying Jesus on Christmas Day with four weeks leading up to it.
The Advent season allows us to consider who Jesus is and all that he means to us. It’s a reminder of all we have in Christ and what our lives might look like without him. The songs, celebrations, gatherings, and church services during Advent help us look to Jesus and find joy in him. But since these things can be sporadic and might not be as focused on Jesus, a good reading plan can help you get into God’s Word with eyes ready to see Jesus anew. My encouragement is to leverage Advent to make much of Jesus in your home and heart. Do this intentionally and with a plan or by January 1st you’ll like back and realize something was missed.
Our church provided this Advent Booklet that includes a daily reading from the Old and New Testaments. It also includes additional recommended resources and activities tied to Advent in the book, as well as daily questions, a weekly hymn, and some crafts and recipes. Our hope is that it helps us see how through Jesus and in Jesus all things can be made new.