Thanksgiving is a great time to take a needed pause to give thanks to God. But once you’ve woken up from your nap, most of us are jarred into the reality that the Christmas season is upon us. Unless we’ve already shopped for gifts and don’t have any gatherings to attend, for most of us life can feel pretty full, sometimes overwhelming. How can we “re-train” ourselves to prepare our hearts for Christmas? How can we create a bit of margin in our lives to dig more deeply into the meaning of incarnation? Here are just a few thoughts…
Observe Advent, The word means “to wait” and the early church observed a season (four Sundays before Christmas Day) in order to expectantly wait for the glorious announcement of good news. Of course we know how the story goes but when we observe Advent we place ourselves in the story, waiting, longing for Messiah who would come to rescue His people. Waiting is difficult stuff because it literally turns the values of the world on its head. Rather than consume or be busy, waiting feels unproductive. Yet, we are to let the anticipation build up (just like Lent and it’s focus on Christ’s death and resurrection) by not getting to Christ’s birth too quickly. Let it simmer in your hearts as it opens up more room, more capacity to receive this incredible news from the Father.
Some great Advent devotionals are:
Watch For the Light:Readings for Advent and Christmas – this could be one of my favorites because it has readings from Bonhoeffer, Lewis, Phil Yancey, and Bernard of Clairvaux. Keep in mind that the book covers a wide range of people in history as well as theological persuasion (which you might not think is good but I think quite the opposite).
Be on the lookout how you can serve your neighbors. Open your eyes to the opportunities God gives each day to see who your neighbor is. I would always encourage people to give financially because it is a way to serve those in need. But also look around for you the marginalized, the lonely, the immigrant/refugee, the lost and think of a way that you can serve them in large or small ways. This is important because Christmas is God’s self-giving as He came to live in our neighborhood (John 1:14). We give of ourselves and at times when it’s uncomfortable because God gave of Himself. In other words, be ready to have your daily plans be turned upside down because you have the opportunity to give.
Do something completely contrary to how most people celebrate the holidays. What if you took just one Christmas and decided as a family that you didn’t need anything? What if you decided to take all the money you would spend on presents in order to bless someone else? Our church has decided that everything that is given above our set budget for the balance of the year will be given away to some key opportunities – rescuing children in the world who are vulnerable and organizations that minister locally to the least and the lost. That is upside down and makes no sense other than framing through a gospel lens.
Ann Voscamp writes,
“We’re ready for Christmas, not when we have all the gifts, but when we are ready for Christ – when we’re ready to give all of ourselves to Christ.”
This critical period before Christmas Day, let’s prepare our hearts by waiting and making more space, increasing the capacity for our hearts to experience true joy on that morning as we celebrate the Son’s incarnation!