The leaves have danced off the trees and the turkey is cold again; in its place comes the Christmas season. Here comes a herald of holly and gift wrap, of warm greetings and jingle bells.
On our drive beneath the Tennessee sunset on our way to a small Thanksgiving dinner a couple days ago, advent came up. We were just at the crest of a hill, the pink and orange sky outstretched above lanes of highway, when Travis said, “Celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving makes me feel like I’m bought into consumerism.”
As the sky rolled on above us, we unpacked it. We found words for what we just naturally do in our home. Our desire is to spend November thanking God for the good things in our life. We participate in a season of reworking gratitude into our every day, because in doing so, we see our Father’s goodness all the more (James 1:17).
But when December comes, we spend it in thanking God specifically for the good gift of His Son. We ponder on the mystery of salvation. We marvel at the story of Jesus’s humble human entrance into this world. We wait.
Well, don’t let me be the one to start a debate on when the appropriate time to celebrate Christmas is. You’re welcome here, even if you’ve been listening to Christmas music since October. I’m not here to cause division, I’m simply saying that either way –
It’s time to prepare.
There are gifts to find and cards of red and green to write. We have presents to wrap, recipes to perfect, party dresses to purchase – we’re all still doing that this year, even though we’re staying home, right?
The American Christmas really does roll out quite the red carpet for this holiday season. But for the Christian, the hallmark of this season is humbly spiritual.
Our preparation is not only hanging beautiful décor and rocking around the Christmas tree. We participate in those things because it’s fun and laughable, and God has made us to enjoy life (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).
But when the lights go out, we have more to celebrate. We prepare not merely for lights and dollars, but for a gift that will never taken away: the birth of our Life and Joy. Advent is a sacred few weeks worked into our calendar so we can wait for coming of Jesus. There’s a quiet groan aching within us as we reset our vision back on Him.
How are you waiting for Jesus to arrive? It’s a question I’m asking myself today.
I’ve found that these weeks of waiting, or advent, look different for every season of my Christian walk. There have been a few resources I’ve used more than once that have enriched the days of waiting for me. You can explore some of my recommended options below.
As we step into this beautiful, somber season of waiting, let’s cling tight to what we know to be most true: that God loved humanity in all its brokenness so much that He gave us His Son as a baby to serve and teach us. Let’s marvel at this miracle and dare to trust all the more deeply in this wonderful story.
Advent Project 2020
Provided by Biola University’s Center for Christianity Culture and the Arts, this Advent series features a daily Scripture, devotion, a work of visual art, a poem, and a piece of music.
There are two things I most love about the Advent Project, and why I continually come back to this resource:
001. Integration of art. Creation and our created projects glorify a Creator God. God loves when we create beautiful things. The art and music provided each day only enhances the beauty of the written word.
002. Different teachers, one salvation. Because each essay is written by a different professor, theologian, or friend of the university, there is a wide range of voice. But the remarkable thing is how regardless of whether the Episcopalian or the Baptist are sharing, or somewhere in between, all rest their faith in Jesus.
What a diverse, creative, beautiful universal church we get to be a part of. I look forward to the Advent Project every year. The Advent Project follows the full Advent calendar, so you get daily essays emailed from November 29 – January 6. This unique plan is rich and fulfilling.
Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones
Is this a kid’s book? Yes.
Have I used this devotionally before? Also yes.
The older I get and messier life becomes, the more I hunger to sit in the simple presence of my Savior. This children’s book is an all-time favorite, completed with lyrical wording and adorable pictures. Every story points us back to Jesus – exactly what we need day in and day out.
25 Days of Advent
Provided by Hannah Brencher, this 25-day daily email devotional is packed full of truth and beauty. The queen of storytelling and breaking the Bible down into bite-sized chunks, while not minimizing the deep theological truths of the Word, this series is a delightful read paired best with coffee in the morning.
Honest Advent by Scott Erickson
Travis and I purchased this book to read through this season, so I can’t give an honest review about Honest Advent yet. However, we chose this book for 3 main reasons:
001. The feminine perspective on the birth story that we’ve never heard before.
002. The honest, descriptive account of the outright scandal of Jesus’ birth.
003. The reflective artwork.
My prayer is that this book will take us on a journey to reclaiming the wonder of Christ afresh as we behold Him in all the goopy mess. In a world of striving and beautifying, my soul is ready to crash into the honesty of the advent season.