Are you dreading the holidays this year? Losses can be compounded during times that are supposed to be filled with joy. My heart is grieved to think of the festive coziness of holidays overshadowed …
Are you dreading the holidays this year? Losses can be compounded during times that are supposed to be filled with joy. My heart is grieved to think of the festive coziness of holidays overshadowed by anguish for those missing loved ones or just feeling lonely and isolated.
For others the emptiness tends to come after the parties and revelry as we head back to the mundane routines of school or work. When we compare our lives to Hallmark movies, Thomas Kinkade paintings or social media posts, there’s a good chance our own experience feels a little lackluster. Many times I look forward to the warmth, fun and treats of Christmas because I hope that somewhere in the trimmings and trappings (and calories!) I will find satisfaction, some form of salvation from all that I’ve endured in the past year. Especially this year!
I fear that we may hang our expectations of peace and rest on the festivities as we desperately try to shake off a nerve-racking global pandemic, an uncertain economy and a frustrating election cycle. Does our hope come from political or economic security or even good health? What can we put our hope in then?
Some church traditions specifically refer to this season leading up to Christmas as Advent, which means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. The Christian faith celebrates the arrival of the most notable historical figure; God become man, Jesus Christ!
Church traditions not familiar with Advent liturgy may be tempted to ignore it and treat it as too ritualistic and those more inclined to observe Advent practices may be inclined to feel too comfortable with it and miss the depth.
J.B. Phillips writing on Advent said, “Whenever familiarity breeds contempt there is potential danger.” Our danger is not, perhaps, contempt in this case, but I would warn us against indifference to an opportunity to reflect on the awe of what God has done. Advent in the church calendar is the four Sundays before Christmas, so the first Sunday of Advent is Nov. 29. I want to encourage you to make time this season to really meditate on why we celebrate Christmas. This is a great time to start preparing spiritually, intentionally moving your thoughts from the busyness of assembling parties, meals and gifts to the making ready of your mind and heart. I am suggesting something beyond a daily quote or opening the next door on your countdown-to-Christmas calendar. So what should we meditate on? Our source of hope! Real hope that lasts comes from knowing that God, who is the only uncreated being, took on the likeness of humanity, and when he had come as a man, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He did this on our behalf, in order to present us holy and blameless before God! To receive this hope, we need to acknowledge that on our own, we are in rebellion against God, attempting to live in such a way to achieve our own rescue. We can’t save ourselves “but when the kindness of God and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us!”
Here are some ideas to engage the spiritual practice of Advent.
If you use an app for your smartphone, like the YouVersion Bible app, you can find a variety of daily devotional meditations on Advent, the birth of Jesus. Or use each of the Sundays leading up to Christmas to read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and the prophecies about him from the Old Testament: Isaiah 7, Micah 5 and Hosea 11 are just a few. You could even download this Advent reading plan at www.faithandtheotherfive.com/advent. Or you may choose to read an advent story like the series of historical fiction short stories by Arnold Ytreeide (you can find out more at www.jothamsjourney.com).
Whatever you choose, please be blessed this season, as you slow down and let your heart be moved by the grandeur of what God chose to do entering into our world to pursue you!
(Seth Carter is the director of Campus Ventures in Powell.)