In a culture where commercialism and materialism have nearly taken over “the holiday season,” those of us who are Christians are left with a choice: do we allow ourselves to get caught in the rushing stream of commercialized nonsense, or will we fight against the current and swim upstream? At our Life Group last night we decided that we wanted to swim upstream. We want to be a people who are caught up in worship this season as we consider the majesty and the glory of the reality that the Almighty Creator God became a man. The King of Glory saw the brokenness of our world and our desperate need, and He entered into our broken world so that He could bring redemption. As we began to grow excited about a month of celebrating the glories and the implications of the Incarnation, we also realized that a Christ-centered Christmas season will not happen without intentionality.
Throughout church history, the Advent season was a season (beginning four Sundays before Christmas) when the Church would focus intentionally on the coming of Christ (the Advent). They would look back at His first coming (Christmas) and look forward with great anticipation to His second coming when He will bring His redemptive work to its consummation.
At our Life Group we were sharing ideas about how we can be intentionally focused on Christ this season. One person mentioned the use of Advent Candles. This is a fantastic tradition with a long history and several variations. Check out this post by Noel Piper to understand its purpose. Last year, Jamie and I read through Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie. It is “an anthology of Advent readings collected from the writings and sermons of 22 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers” like Augustine, Martin Luther, Tim Keller, Joni Eareckson Tada, Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, Randy Alcorn, and more. I highly reccomend the book. This year, we have compiled a list of biblical Christmas songs, and we are taking time to work through the lyrics to understand and meditate on the truths in the songs. These are songs that we have heard or sung hundreds of times, but often we have been oblivious to the powerful and glorious truths that we are singing about. For example, consider the words of this classic line, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’.”
There is not one right way to celebrate the Advent of Christ, but we must get intentional. Please take a couple of minutes to share some ideas of practices that you have done or heard about so that we can all benefit. We need the Spirit to help us swim upstream this season, and we need community. May we approach Christmas this season with more anticipation, more worship, and more love for God than ever before.