I’m sure you have beloved Christmas traditions that you can’t wait to keep with friends and family during this time of year. Almost everyone can recount in detail the exact order of events in their childhood home on Christmas Eve or morning. For me, I always half-listened to the nativity story from the book of Luke, dumped the contents of my stocking on the floor to look for the good candy, and spotted the largest gift with my name on it under the tree. Christmas was the culmination of lengthy campaign for the biggest and shiniest new toy of the season and the moment of truth came when I was allowed to tear into my presents.
Our traditions tell a story about what is important to us. They speak of our love of family and desire for happier and simpler times. But they also reveal a temptation to participate in a kind of Christmas escapism that enables us to ignore the ugliness of the world for a month or two in a sugar-coated holiday wonderland. As followers of Jesus, we are called to embody a more complex narrative that teaches us to live faithfully in times of unmet expectations, sorrow, and confusion while we wait for our hopes to be fulfilled in Jesus.
Advent is the season of waiting and preparation before Christmas. In Advent we find ourselves in the place of the prophets of Israel longing for a Messiah who will come to deliver us from oppression and injustice. And we are constantly reminded that we are the Church who watches and waits for the second coming of Jesus, crying, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The narrative of Advent tells us that even in dark and difficult days, we await a holy mystery as God comes into our world and into our suffering in a real flesh and blood of human being.
I want to encourage you to think about how you can tell the story of Advent by creating some new holiday traditions. How can you practice waiting with children in a way that directs their eager anticipation toward Jesus? And what does it look like for you to acknowledge your own role in the injustice and brokenness of our world and then fervently pray for Christ to restore it? How can you prepare your heart to respond faithfully and joyfully to the truth that God has broken into our story in Christ and the restoration of all things has begun?
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas (December 3 this year) so we still have a couple of weeks to plan for Advent. We will light an Advent wreath during our worship services at Restoration but you can also light one at home on Sundays or even everyday. If you have children, you can read about the Jesse Tree and learn about Jesus’ family tree and the generations before him who hoped for a Messiah. There are even wonderful kits for making ornaments for each story.
I especially think we should all consider slowing down for Advent. Perhaps, you can slowly decorate your home leading up to Christmas Day to build anticipation. Or you could create an Advent playlist that reminds you to ponder and pray. You can even leave some Christmas traditions for after December 25, during the Twelve Days of Christmas, instead of rushing to get them done before. And you should set aside time for reflection and preparation with an Advent devotional. We will offer the newest addition of NT Wright’s Advent for Everyone that will guide you through readings from the Bible for the season.
What story will your holiday traditions tell and how will they shape your life? I can’t wait to hear all the wonderful ideas from the Restoration family for living into Advent in a way that truly prepares our hearts for Christmas.