The Advent that almost wasn’t

It’s the third day of December.

Usually by this time of the year, I’ve posted my annual “Make Christmas Count” appeal, and detailed how families can really invest in their children by planting the Gospel message deep in their hearts during Advent.

It’s the third day of December, and I have no well-thought out posts or programs to share with you.

Since my kids were very little, my husband and I have made it a priority to countdown the days to Christmas and spend quality time together as a family focusing on Christ’s story every day in December. We have made precious memories each year, and it’s become a tradition all of us anticipate.

Yet since October this year, when I’ve thought about what we were going to do for December, my only reaction was stress.

Our Christmas season is action-packed, with barely any breathing room. How are we supposed to squeeze in an Advent family experience amidst school music programs, Nutcracker ballet performances and church activities? Stress, with a capital S.

Thanksgiving hit, and I knew it was make or break time. None of our previous plans really fit where we are a family this year, and especially our schedule for this December. So, were we going to do Advent or not?

As I scrambled, trying to draw up plans for an abridged program to work around our chaotic schedule, I finally just stopped. I looked up at my kids, my family, my home. I saw the sparkle in my son’s eye as he worked to hang ornaments on the tree in just the right places, and heard my daughter’s delightful glee as the Christmas lights came on.

Advent calendar boxEach child arranged, and rearranged, our many Nativity scenes that particular day. While I was looking over their progress, I noticed Jesus was missing from one of the groupings.

“Lauren, where is baby Jesus?” I asked, beginning to look around on the floor and behind the entertainment system.

My five-year-old came running over, with an excited grin.

“Don’t worry Mom! I put Jesus in the Advent calendar.”

She had tenderly placed Jesus in our Advent calendar’s Day 25 box, as the gift for us on Christmas Day.

All the planning and stress of the holiday season doesn’t make Christmas more special or bring Jesus into our celebrations. He is already there.

Advent isn’t a program to squeeze into Christmas. Advent reminds us to slow down and treasure our Savior, to celebrate that Jesus came and He is coming again.

For our family, focusing on Jesus this Christmas will be our priority. If that means adjusting some of our plans, fine. But, we are each committed to enjoying each day as it is, even if our schedules are crazy, because it’s a day to lift up Jesus together.

Family Book of AdventAfter all my stress, God reminded me of a little book my father-in-law had given me a few Christmases ago called The Family Book of Advent by Carol Garborg. Last Saturday, I picked it up and read it in one sitting, immediately knowing this simple book, with it’s applicable Biblical devotions and optional activities, was just what our family needed.

So, December 1, we all woke up early, and snuggling together under the covers we began our Christmas Countdown. When we finished our short Bible story, we went out to the living room in our pjs, put up the number of days until December 25, and jumped up and down in anticipation of Christmas and what God had in store this month for each of us. Later that night, after a full evening of dance lessons and errands, we carved out time to create Christmas wreaths. Just like a circle never ends, we can know that Jesus is always King.

The kids hold up their Advent wreaths, where we will add different names of Jesus from Scripture during the month.

The kids hold up their Advent wreaths, where we will add different names of Jesus from Scripture during the month. Of course, they wanted ribbon infused with glitter, which we will also have all over our floors the entire Christmas season!

Yesterday, Dec. 2, we had another early morning Bible study, this time curled up on the couch in our pajamas. We considered God’s promises in the Old Testament, and how God always keeps His Word. After AWANA, we wrapped a present and placed colored pictures of leaves, an angel, food and hearts inside. They remind us of the promises that God never leaves us, God sends His angels to watch over us, God feeds the birds of the air and He will take care of us too, and that nothing will ever separate us from God’s love.

Jackson and Lauren open our present filled with God's promises.

Jackson and Lauren open our present filled with God’s promises.

Today, we will have our family time this evening. No day this Advent season will be the same. I’m also not sure how blog-worthy our Christmas Countdown will be this month, though I will try to share some of our experiences. But, that’s not the point.

When we look back on these years, we aren’t going to recall the specific activities, ornate art projects or detailed decorations.

We will remember that we were together, and Jesus was there.

Journey to the Manger: Wise Men and the Star

Lauren navigates the last leg of our obstacle course.

Lauren navigates the last leg of our obstacle course.

Today on our Journey to the Manger, we followed the star with the Wise Men.

God placed the star in the sky when His Son was born to share the news with the entire world. He wanted every people of every nation, tribe and tongue to know the Messiah was here—and that the world would never be the same. God sent Himself to come and dwell among us!

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.

– Matthew 2:1

Wise Men Follow the Star

Wise Men Follow the Star

Magi in the East recognized the shift in the skies and the new light that shone forth. They understood a King had been born, and were moved to go find him. The star guided them through the rough terrain to Jerusalem, and then on to Bethlehem. The wise men entered the presence of the King, and finally understood why they came. They fell to their knees and worshiped the Savior.

Today we jumped through an obstacle course in our home, as we considered the journey the wise men took. We wove around chairs, jumped over the ottoman, leaped from pillow to pillow and dove under the piano bench.

The star beckoned the entire earth to rejoice that the King of Kings had arrived! Jesus’ birth not only affected Bethlehem and the surrounding area, it changed the world, showcased by the star in the heavens. It transforms us even now.

Jesus came to reveal Himself to all mankind, and to you and me. For God so loved the world, that He gave His One and Only Son.

 

Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.