It’s that time of year when everyone seems to get busier and busier with Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, Christmas parties, Christmas baking, Christmas travel plans and other Christmasy stuff. And I love it! I can unashamedly say that Christmas is my favorite Holiday. We have special music, movies, decorations, lights, trees, parties, food, and more just for celebrating Christmas. I mean, what’s not to love? Well, except for the Christmas fruitcakes. And there’s the busyness, loneliness, and the consumerism of the season that can be a real drag.
But if I may be so bold, I think I have a way to help you to actually increase your enjoyment of Christmas while, at the same time, bringing a bit more peace your way. And believe it or not, it’s by adding something to your already busy schedule.
I want you to add waiting. Yes, waiting. Well, actually what we need to add is more intentionality and focus to our waiting. We are always waiting, we just don’t always acknowledge it or embrace it. In fact, most of the time we try to do whatever we can to avoid or mitigate waiting. We don’t like it. The reason being, it reminds us and makes us to feel that we are incomplete and that our lives are lacking something. This is humbling, and it can even make us feel despair (if our focus is off).
All year long (and every day of the year) we are experiencing the imperfections, problems, struggles, and issues of our sin-cursed world. Quite often we are lied to regarding the current condition of this world. We are told that it isn’t that bad. We are told that we aren’t that bad. We are told that we just need more, newer, and/or better stuff, education, money, friends, etc, and then we’ll finally be happy, free, fulfilled, and complete. However, these things are never able to keep their promises. They simply cannot fill the deep longing within. That’s why Christmas is so beloved. The focus of Christmas is on someone, the Someone, who would come to fix all that’s broken, heal all that’s wounded, satisfy all the longings, meet all the needs, and rescue all the perishing.
But even though Jesus already came that first Christmas so long ago, and even though His coming changed absolutely everything and set into motion His perfect plan of redemption, we are still waiting. We are waiting for Him to finish what He started. We are waiting for the fullness of what we now experience in part. This is where we live; right in between the amazing reality of Jesus’ first advent on the first Christmas Day in Bethlehem and the glorious realization of the hope of His second advent yet to come. As we enjoy the fact that Jesus has come, we also wait for Him to come again. The question is, “How well are we waiting.”
This is where observing Advent each year is super helpful. Advent is the 4-week season leading up to and preparing us to celebrate Christmas (Christ’s first coming/advent). It also reminds us that we are still waiting for Christ’s second coming/advent. It refocuses us on Christ as the only hope for all of our needs and desires; He’s the One were waiting for! It prepares us to celebrate Christmas with greater intensity, even as we are made to feel our losses, lacking, and longings with greater intensity. It helps us to enjoy both our experience of Christ’s presence because of Christmas and our waiting for the fullness of His presence at His second advent.
But how do we observe Advent? There are no songs that say, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Advent.”, or songs that refer to Advent as “the most wonderful time of the year.” We don’t give or get Advent gifts. There’s no such thing as Advent cookies. So, what should we do? How do we observe Advent?
First, Advent is not something that we observe naturally or automatically. We must be intentional, even disciplined in our observance of it. This is because the season of Advent is about waiting, and as I said above, we don’t like waiting. But Advent is abundantly realistic. And our Christmas celebration needs a dose of reality, not to tame it, but to focus and even intensify it. Embracing the reality that we are still awaiting the fullness of God’s presence among us and the consummation of His Kingdom for us keeps us from downgrading Christmas to merely a celebration of family, friends, stuff, and the warm fuzzies. Observing Advent reminds us that Christmas is the celebration of much more than all of that. Those things are meant to help us celebrate, not to become the focus of the celebration. Observing Advent helps us to focus on and prepares us to celebrate the One through whom and in whom is all of our hopes and all of our longings, the One and only One who can and will undo all that is wrong with us and our world. But this focus can only happen with great intentionality.
Second, because it take intentionality and discipline, we need help from others to observe Advent as we should. So, here are a few ideas for you:
- Ask the Lord to help you to embrace waiting with anticipation, longing with expectation, and even sadness with hope.
- Worship Jesus with others who are also seeking to observe Advent in a Christ-centered way.
- Read helpful resources that help focus your heart and mind on Christ, specifically as the One we’re hoping in and waiting for.
- Be consistent in family worship times, using resources that help you focus on the point of Advent: We have Jesus, but we need more of Him.
Finally, consider using one or more of the following resources:
For Family Worship and Children —
- The Littlest Watchman | Scott James
- Advent Resources | Seeds Family Worship
- Seasons/Advent Guide | The Village Church
For Personal Study and Older Kids/Adults —
- Come, Let Us Adore Him | Paul David Tripp
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy | John Piper
- Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus | Nancy Guthrie
- Love Came Down at Christmas | Sinclair Ferguson
- The One True Gift | Tim Chester
- Good News of Great Joy (Free Daily Readings) | John Piper