I shared before that it was only a few years ago that Aaron and I claimed that this holiday was all about Jesus, but we really never lived like that was true. We could say all the right Christian things about Christmas, but bottom line...our holidays were filled with gift buying, stress, busyness, activities and Jesus was an afterthought.
Then we'd be annoyed that our kids seemed so greedy and acted like Christmas was only about the presents. How silly of us! What else could we have expected?
Last year was our first year to do an advent study in our home. Last year a lot of our traditions changed.
I think sometimes when we throw out the Santa version of Christmas we're left with a stripped down version of Christmas that can be as void of joy and worship as it was when we were distracted with other things.
Have I mentioned lately how much I have loved Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in our Traditions? The book is not all about Christmas. It's about the value of tradition in a Christian home...special holiday traditions...as well as every day traditions. The goal of tradition is to remember and remind ourselves and our children about the story of God's love, the great length to which He has gone to redeem us and to restore all things.
From Treasuring God in our Traditions...
"The word tradition isn’t in the Old Testament, but the reality is there. In the passages where God gives instructions for the ceremonies he designed, he repeatedly makes clear his purposes for these occasions. When we recognize his purposes, we’ll have a better idea as to what makes a godly tradition in our own homes. About the Passover celebration, for example, we read:
It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.
Some of the phrases in the verse help us see at least some of what God had intended for his people through their traditions.
• “A night of watching by the LORD”
—God wants his people to remember what he himself did for them.
• “A night . . . to the LORD”
—God wants them to honor him for what he’s done.
• “Throughout their generations”
—God wants their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to hear the story of his salvation so they too will remember and honor him.
If we look at God’s instructions for the Festival of Booths commemorating the Jews’ forty years of desert wanderings, we see another important piece of his purpose.
You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
(Leviticus 23:42-43, emphasis added)
(Leviticus 23:42-43, emphasis added)
As with the Passover, God wants his people to celebrate in a way that re-enacts the story of his mighty deeds. And again he wants the coming generations to hear the story and celebrate him and what he’s done. Then there is an additional piece:
• “I am the LORD your God”
—God was not just part of their history. Their traditions are to proclaim that he is their God now. He is I AM.
Advent is a special time of remembering the Christmas story. It's a time of waiting...of preparation.
It's a time for us to teach our children and remind them like scripture says of all that God has done. It's also a time for us as adults to remember. I need to be reminded of the truths found in the Christmas Story just as much as our little ones need to be reminded.
We will celebrate Christmas again this year by doing an advent study all month long.
There are several different ways to do the advent thing. Some families may choose to do a study every Sunday of advent. Others do a study every evening, or most evenings in December.
Advent begins THIS SUNDAY NIGHT, November 29.
In our home, we bought an advent wreath. We have four red candles with a white one in the middle. It's nothing fancy. This year, I'd like one on the coffee table and on the dining room table, so instead of buying another one, we're going to use Mandi's idea and let the kids make candle holders. Recipe for dough here.
We are using this Advent study. I think someone sent this to us last year (Brandon, Sarah...I can't remember?)
While you're at it, you might want to order this CD. An Advent study plus Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb might be all anyone needs to make this holiday a time of worship and joy!