Advent and Christmas can be a crazy time. We hang banners in the church that say faith, hope, joy, and peace. Yet so often we feel the exact opposite of those things at this time of the year. There is lots to do and a lot of pressure to look like you have it all together. So here are a few hints for have a different kind of Advent this year.
Remember the meaning of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin meaning to come. It is a season leading up to Christmas were we are meant to think about Christ coming in three ways. First, we remember that Christ came in the past-tense. We sing songs and do liturgy in which we identify with Israel and with Mary expecting Jesus to come. This drives us to think about Jesus coming to us in the present tense and he comes into our lives. We also look forward during this month to the future coming of Christ at the second coming.
Pay attention to the traditions and the symbols. They are meant to connect you with the season.
- Evergreens- represent the eternal promises of God that stay true no matter how much life feels like winter.
- Wreath- evergreens weaved in a circle to further the idea of the eternal promises which have no beginning or end.
- Christmas Tree- represents the evergreen symbol, but in our homes and filled with memories of Christmas’ past.
- The Star- the symbol the wise men followed representing God’s leading in our own lives.
- Lights- reminders that Jesus comes to bring light to dark times and dark places.
- The Nativity- reminds us of the center of the story.
- Songs- provide a soundtrack and, though we rarely pay attention to the words, holds a theology for the season.
Try to develop a devotional habit. Spend time daily reading and thinking about God’s work in your life. I have written a few devotionals for Advent, but there are plenty of others available.
Read the Christmas story. It is found in both Matthew and Luke in the Bible. You might be surprised how many elements that you think are part of the story are not actually in the text. I suggest you read the story multiple times and marinate in it for Advent.
Take times of silence and rest. This is a season where true Sabbath rest is rarely found. Schedule it. Plan on it, or it won’t happen.
Remember the difficulties of others. This is a season of deeper depression and higher suicide rates. Many people feel the sting of losses and regrets more keenly during the Christmas season. Look for opportunities to care for others during this season. This is also a season where people are more likely to accept an invitation to go to church.
Consider the practice of alternative giving. This is when you give a donation to an organization in honor of another person. It can be a meaningful experience for both you and the one who received the gift. Some ministries, such as Samaritan’s Purse who does Operation Christmas Child, allow you to give specific gifts. You can then print a card that says you bought a chicken or a medicine kit in the other person’s name and give it to them. You can see their options HERE.
I hope and pray that you can have a blessed holiday season.