advent 2017: how to cultivate a deep christmas

By November 28, 2017article

We walked through Target, shopping for a few random things on a list.

“Mama, for Christmas, can you wrap up a box of Cocoa Krispies for me?” my daughter asked.

I had to laugh. This child likes Cocoa Krispies, but no one else in our house will eat them. I rarely buy them because she can’t finish the box before they’re stale, and I’ve dumped too many boxes in the trash.

Apparently, Cocoa Krispies have become a special kind of blessing to her. I’m sure she’d prefer a world where there are sweet chocolatey cereals available every day, but she’s stuck here in this world, where the uncommon joy of a $3 box of rice tastes sweet enough to warrant a place on her Christmas dreams.

That girl longs for the advent of some cereal.

Advent comes from a root Latin word that means to arrive. In the Christian tradition, it means we are the ones waiting for a sweet arrival of uncommon joy. My heart needs Advent every year, but this year feels particularly poignant.

My children aren’t little any longer, and the magic of Christmas is changing in our home. It’s less about the wonder in their hearts and more about the depth of love we feel for one another. It’s got me thinking about where that love comes from; about the God who first told a teenage girl about the long awaited Messiah’s coming. Our love for each other flows from the heart of a Father who entrusted the news of His greatest night to a bunch of shepherds, lolling on a hillside.

In a world that sings a lovely song about how much we should treat ourselves to the best things in life, the Christmas story offers us a reprieve from our self-centered quest to find meaning and greatness and comfort within our own souls.

Christmas means that even if we are only shepherds, faithfully tending our responsibilities, God delights to make us part of His redemptive plan. It means we don’t have to try so hard to be good, because a Prince of Peace has come to still our anxious attempts to get everything right. Christmas means that a single girl, one of the most powerless people in her culture, would be asked to carry in her womb the most powerful remedy for all the evil and pain in the world.

I want God to wrap up those truths and put them in my heart. On December 25, I long to arrive in a place where God’s plans for me are wrapped up like a gift, even if they are different than I expect them to be.

So I have an Advent plan. It includes some lovely things, and I thought I’d share them with you today.

Step 1:

I’ll be using the She Reads Truth advent study to lead my heart through this year . It came the other day and it’s gorgeous, you guys. I ordered a bundle that included daily scripture cards for our family to read and a He reads Truth book for Morgan, too. A lot of it’s on sale right now, so it’s not too late if you want to get one before Advent starts this weekend.

Step 2:

We will also be using Ann Voskamp’s advent books as a family: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas and The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent. I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to win my children’s hearts in new ways this year. They are losing their naivete and wonder in some ways, but a God who leaves heaven to save His people is an even more wondrous thing than sparkly lights and presents. I hope they find that wonder and make a treasure out of it this year.

Step 3:

For the first night of Advent,  to kick off the fun, I bought some Christmas crackers like these to help us celebrate. We’ll have hot cocoa and cookies after dinner while we do our readings, then crack open our fun little gifts and take a walk through our neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. 

Step 4:

This year, like every year, my kids all have one of those Advent calendars with the chocolates in them. It’s a tiny way for me to keep these man-sized people in my house little in some way. Besides, there’s something about one sweet taste of chocolate each day as we wait for Christmas to come that helps us all to remember that waiting is not without its small comforts.

Step 5:

Each week we will try to bake something to give away to someone. Homemade goodies make the world go around in all sorts of ways. The holidays are the best excuse to give presents to people we hardly know, and I don’t want to miss my chance. My heart is clinging to the hope that Advent can help me grow this year, to become a woman who carries Christ well in a world so in need of love and good news.

I looked it up yesterday, and learned the words Advent and Adventure actually come from the same root word. I haven’t been feeling particularly brave or adventurous lately, and so this felt like a clue about Advent I had never considered before. The longer I journey with God, the more I realize that He arrives again and again in our lives in new, adventurous ways. Advent 2017 is one chapter in a greater story of God’s best adventure in the world: His quest to bring us all home. My job is simply to wait and watch for His arrival.

Wrap up the Cocoa Krispies. Make some cookies for the man with the sign on the corner. Spread the love. sing the carols, make much of Christmas in your neighborhood and school and workplace. Pull your favorite people close to you and tell them the best news they’ve heard all day: that this Christmas thing is deep, and if you dive in without hesitation, the undiluted love will be a gift that leads you all the way to the end of your brave journey.