This week’s assignment was to describe your favorite Christmas memory. What do you like about the holiday? Does your family have any special traditions? Anything you don’t like? Here is my take on my favorite aspect of Christmastime: Advent.
I love Christmas. Well, I do not exactly love Christmas so much as the time leading up to it. That is when all the excitement, the anticipation, the looking forward happens. Christmas itself, I find, is always just a mite disappointing. It’s a day you expect so much from, and it is a crazy and exciting day, but then it always ends and all the weeks – even months – of anticipation come to a crashing halt. This is why the time leading up to Christmas is so crucial as a time to ask yourself, “What am I expecting from Christmas?” and to orient your heart and mind and soul around the Messiah Who came to save. In light of this, my favorite Christmas tradition is the season of Advent: the season of waiting for Christ’s coming.
Our family has celebrated Advent for as long as I can remember. My Mom grew up in a Catholic home celebrating it, and she turned this hopeful tradition into a family institution. We use an advent wreath, a wreath with four candles inserted in it: three purple and one pink. In the center of the wreath is a white candle, the Christ candle, to be lit on Christmas day. Each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we light one candle, each commemorating a certain part of the Scriptural saga: the prophets’ candle, the Bethlehem candle, the shepherds’ candle, and the angels’ candle.
Throughout the weeks, we go through a devotional each night as a family. For years now, we’ve used an Advent banner, a felt hanging Mommy made with a Christmas tree on it. On this Christmas tree are 27 pieces of Velcro. As a part of each day’s devotional, we stick on the tree an ornament with a simple picture symbolizing what we reflected on that day, maybe an Alpha and Omega, the cross, a candle, the world, or the root from the stump of Jesse. Some years, Mom and Dad have lead the devotionals. Some years my siblings and I have undertook that commission. This year we are using an Advent devotional by Ann Voskamp called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.
In addition to pointing us towards Christ, Advent is also a time of bonding as a family. Often Christmastime can be a thing that strains family unity – too many white elephant exchanges, Christmas parties, in-laws in town, ‘What on earth do I get you for Christmas?!’ syndrome. Advent, like John the Baptist, prepares us in the midst of a frenzied world for Christ’s coming, “[turning] the hearts of the fathers to the children” (Luke 1:17). Setting aside time each evening as a family to remind each other of the significance of Jesus’ birth brings us together on a deeper level. Also, we usually, we read aloud through one of three books by Arnold Ytreeide, historical fiction set near the time of the Jesus’ birth written to be read during the weeks of Advent. And for several years now, we have fit in a reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – a family favorite – too.
While we should constantly seek to focus our hearts and minds on Christ and the glorious and wonderful importance of the truth ‘the Lord is come’, the time before we celebrate His birth should be especially significant. Is it not simply amaze-ing that…
the Word – the ultimate truth, God Himself
became flesh – taking the form of the thing He made
and dwelt among us – the One Who is bigger than that dizzying amount of stars and light years and galaxies out there became another one of us specks on a tiny planet to bring us salvation from our sin
This is what makes Christmas “the most wonderful time of the year.”
This is the miracle of Immanuel: God. With. Us.
All the pictures on this post (except for the last one) are mine. Please don’t steal! 🙂