Growing up, I loved Christmas season. Lights. Gifts. Family. No school. It was the most wonderful time of the year.
Somewhere along the way, however, something changed. The holidays became a burden. Reds and greens draped everywhere, but I saw mostly blues. Christmas just couldn’t bear the weight of the expectations. The busyness gassed my soul.
My favorite day became December 26.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching my boys open gifts. But, after the presents were put away, I found myself disappointed, thinking, “Surely there is more to Christmas than this.”
Five years ago, bracing for another underwhelming holiday season, I discovered something that forever changed Christmas.
I want to introduce you to the gift that saved Christmas for me.
What is Advent?
Advent simply means “arrival” or “coming.” For Christians, Advent refers to the arrival of Jesus Christ, God greatest gift to the world. For hundreds of years, God’s people waited eagerly for the Messiah. Then, in a small, sleepy town, in the most humble of circumstances, “the word became flesh.” The heavens opened, and God became human. Immanuel – God with us!
Today, much like the Israelites, we wait, our hope firmly placed in the inevitable return of Jesus. Advent is a time to remember, rejoice, watch and wait with hope eager expectation
Why should you observe Advent?
When Jesus is the center of this season, everything else has a deeper meaning.
Family, gifts, decorations and holiday gatherings are shadows. Shadows aren’t bad. They reveal the presence of someone or something. If you see my shadow, you know I’m near. But my shadow is not me.
Shadows are not true Presence.
I contend we’ve given too much time and energy to the shadows of Christmas season. And doing this has inevitably led to emptiness and letdowns.
The joy of seeing family. The anticipation of Christmas day. These are shadows. They point us to the substance, Jesus. He is the only one who can satisfy the weight of enormous expectations.
Advent reframes our focus. And when we truly place Jesus at the center of this season, we can enjoy the shadows (the presents, the family meetings) for what they are.
The demands surrounding this season can be overwhelming.
If you’re like me, you have something going on almost every night this time of year. Combined with life’s normal demands, the result is often stress and exhaustion.
I often hear people say, “I love Christmas, but I’m glad it’s over.” I said it for years.
Once I discovered Advent, I didn’t want the holidays to end. My soul was full on Christmas day, even if my body was tired.
In the madness and frantic pace of this season, our soul often gets left behind. Our relationship with God suffers. We feel empty. Disconnected.
Advent fills your heart and mind with holy expectation and with hope. So, rather than coasting into the new year on fumes, you’re filled with joy and passion.
God can be trusted.
When you focus on the shadows of Christmas, you miss something huge. The promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus.
Every promise finds its “yes” in Jesus. In other words, the birth of Jesus reminds you that every word of God is trustworthy. If God’s people could grasp this one reality, Satan wouldn’t have much of a kingdom on earth. If Christians could believe, I mean really believe, that EVERY word from God is true, we would change the world.
Advent is about the arrival of Jesus. Emmanuel, “God with us.” Visible proof of a promise-keeping God. And, in a culture predicated on fear and a season driven by speed and materialism, we need this proof.
BE(COMING) – A Advent Devotional Series
“Hey, Frank. Look, I like what you’re saying and all. But I don’t even know where to start.”
Great, I want to help. On Sunday, December 3rd, we will begin an Advent devotional series. I will post a new devotional every day until Christmas Day.
Each day’s devotional will include a Scripture, thoughts to center your focus, a reflection question, and a prayer.
This year’s Advent series is called “(Be)Coming.” As we consider the coming of our Savior, what kind of people should we be? (Hence (Be)Coming…get it? I know I’m talented.) Who are you becoming? What barriers keep us from seeing Jesus fully? These questions will hover over us as we journey through Advent together.
Because I love you, I’m going to give you each day’s topic. Here you go.
December 3 – Mystery (Colossians 5:5-6)
December 4 – Wilderness (Isaiah 43:18-21)
December 5 – Worri(some?) (Matthew 6:31-34)
December 6 – Be(longing) (Luke 1:39-45)
December 7 – Wake Up (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6)
December 8 – Repent (Matthew 3:1)
December 9 – Less>More (Luke 2:1-7)
December 10 – (Right) Action (James 4:14-26)
December 11 – Ego (Matthew 2:1-8)
December 12 – Suffering (Matthew 2:13-18)
December 13 – Identity (Genesis 1:26-29)
December 14 – Privilege (Luke 2:8-11)
December 15 – Wonder (Luke 1:57-66)
December 16 – Power(less) (Isaiah 7:14)
December 17 – In(different) (Hebrews 6:11-12)
December 18 – Fear (Not) (Luke 1:26-30)
December 19 – Heaven (John 1:1-5; 9-17)
December 20 – Intimacy (John 3:16-21)
December 21 – Humility + Honest = Grace (Philippians 2:1-11)
December 22 – Ordinary (Micah 2:2-5)
December 23 – Grounded (Colossians 2:6-10)
December 24 – Celebration (Luke 1:46-55)
December 25 – Amen (Luke 1:38)
If this butters your bread, just come back here, to Bayside’s blog, every morning, starting December 3rd. Each day’s devotional will post before you wake up, so you can do your morning time with Jesus thing.
I pray the shaking reality of advent causes you to examine who you’re becoming. May this season fill your soul with hope and joy and peace.
Grace and peace, friends.
Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.