Christmas is my favorite time of year. I will usually have one tree up by the middle of November because I can't contain my excitement. My Christmas planning begins in August due to church events and such so I've been thinking about Christmas long before December hits. The smells, the lights, the food, the parties, time with friends and family...everything about December excites me!
When my brother and I were younger, our excitement was even more enthusiastic, like every other child I'm sure, and we did lots of family traditions. One of those traditions was advent. Although I can't remember exactly how many years we did this, I do remember looking forward to lighting the candles if my brother didn't beat me to it. Back then it was just something fun to do and a chance to play with fire. But now, Advent means so much more.
What Advent Is
Advent means “the coming of Christ.” For Christians, the four weeks leading up to Dec. 25 are an opportunity to recognize the significance of Jesus’ birth and prepare our hearts and minds for His arrival.
One of the best places to figure out what Advent should look like is the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2.
Three Lessons We Can Learn About Advent From the Story of Jesus’ Birth
1. Recognize the JOY.
In Luke 2:10-11, an angel declares to the shepherds, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
For about 700 years, the people of God waited in anticipation for this Savior. I can hardly wait for the microwave to finish my popcorn, let alone generation after generation waiting! So I can't even imagine this "great joy" that must've overwhelmed God's people when they heard that this Messiah had finally been born (Hence why we sing "Joy to the World, the Lord is come"). After 700 years there would be a new way to heaven, a new love that the world had never known before, and a baby boy who was 100% man and 100% God living among them. Can you even imagine what this joy would feel like?
2. Prepare room in our lives for Jesus.
For Mary and Joseph, there were no rooms at the inn. They had to seek out a place for Jesus to be born. If we aren’t equally as intentional about making a place for Jesus in our holidays, the next few weeks pass, and Christmas will be gone.
Advent is an opportunity to recognize Jesus’ birth and prepare our hearts and minds for His arrival.
The holidays are hectic! There are parties to plan, gatherings to attend and presents to buy, all in addition to my normal responsibilities. Slowing down and creating time to spend alone with God takes effort. If we want to have time to reflect on all God has done over the last year and prepare for all He wants to do in the future, we have to make it a priority.
"Slowing down and creating time to spend alone with God takes effort"
3. Celebrate and share the gift of Jesus’ presence in our lives.
When the shepherds heard of Jesus’ arrival, they stopped tending their flocks and hurried to visit Him. As soon as they had seen Him, they began praising God and departed to spread the good news that Israel’s long awaited Savior was here.
This Christmas, I want to follow their example by celebrating the gift of Jesus with others. As we gather with friends and family that we haven’t seen in awhile, let’s share with them how the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago is still impacting our lives today.
Practical ways to do that:
1. Be open about your faith
2. Read Luke 2 before opening that first present under the tree
3. Go to church on Christmas Day @ 10a and BRING your family
4. Write down how you will share the gifts of Christmas- Hope, Peace, Joy and love
5. Go through an Advent Calendar with your family each night