‘Tis the season…
- for busyness and overwhelmed schedules packed with events
- for strained pocketbooks from all the shopping for just the right gifts
- for stressed and frazzled relationships and gatherings with relatives
But is this how Christmas was truly meant to be experienced?
Advent means “the coming.” It’s a time of inward preparation for the commemoration of the coming of Christ. It’s a time to be still and remember the God of our past, present, and future. It’s a time to celebrate His presence in the present and prepare for His second coming in the future.
Advent is a time to prepare for Christ’s coming by looking at our lives and seeing if there are habits, attitudes, or behaviors of which we need to repent. —Ann Hibbard
Many years ago, when our children were in grade school and middle school, the Lord impressed upon me that I needed to look at my heart and what we were instilling in our children when it came to Christmas. My husband and I felt we needed to move our family toward a season more focused on celebrating Christ and generosity rather than “getting gifts.” I read a magazine article where the author had incorporated the giving of three gifts in his family. They gave a gift of love (something special the person wanted), a gift of encouragement (a letter), and a gift of the heart (a handmade craft). Each person gave these three gifts to every other member of the family. So instead of the parents being focused on buying gifts for the children, the children were involved in gift-giving in an even greater way. (I’m sorry, I don’t remember the magazine or the author. I believe it may have been in Discipleship magazine or possibly Home Life. I wish I had kept the article and could credit this person. God used him in an amazing way to impact our lives.)
We chose to adopt this plan for our Christmas that year, and it radically changed our celebration that year and for years to come—and it continues to impact our lives and the lives of our grown children and their families.
We did make a slight change in the second year. The making of a craft with each child (three kids times four crafts each!) made me crazy and stressed —the opposite effect we desired. So the second year, we swapped the craft for a gift of service and spiritual growth. Each of our children gave a gift of service. On notecards, they each wrote an act of service they would complete for the recipient at some point in the following year. We encouraged it to be something that would be meaningful to the other person and not just “easy” for the giver. My husband and I gave each of our children a gift of spiritual growth. It might have been a new devotional, a Bible, a journal, a new Veggie Tales or Adventure in Odyssey video—really just anything to encourage their walk with the Lord in the next year. I have to say that I was concerned the gift of encouragement (the letter) would be the least well-received.
I was wrong! The first year it was the gift our children wanted to open first, and it has continued to be a special part of our family Christmas, even as our children have married and left home.
(16 years of Christmas Letters)
Each year since, as the Christmas season approaches, I ask the Lord to examine my heart, attitude, and lifestyle; and make me more intentional and Christ-centered as I prepare for Christmas. This year as I was praying, the Lord impressed upon me the words of Psalm 86:11-13:
Teach me Your way, Yahweh,
and I will live by Your truth.
Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.
I will praise You with all my heart, Lord my God,
and will honor Your name forever.
For Your faithful love for me is great,
and You deliver my life from the depths of Sheol.
—Psalm 86:11-13 (HCSB)
My prayer and study time resulted in an Advent Devotional study, ‘Tis the Season. I’d like to invite you to join me over the next five weeks as we seek to prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate what’s truly important this Christmas season. Psalm 86:11-13 will be our guiding Scripture each week as we seek to cultivate hearts that honor God and reflect Christ to those around us. We’ll get into God’s Word to prepare our hearts and share decorating and family time ideas for preparing our homes to experience Christmas anew this year. Let’s take time to stop, look, listen and celebrate Immanuel—God with us.
How would you characterize your Christmas season preparations each year? Comment and share.
(This was originally posted to this blog on October 28, 2014 as an online Bible study. Join us again this year.)