Christmas; the time of year that encourages the greatest focus and reflection often becomes the time of year with the greatest chaos and confusion. I’ve heard it said that church staff members list the Christmas season as the one they most dread at church. Parents feel the stress of adding expenses and events to already constrained budgets and calendars. While we are excited to celebrate the season, we dread the baggage that accompanies it.
Our family has tried through the years to put a new spin on the dichotomy of the season. The month of December is just as crazy and busy for us as everyone else. Our calendar is filled to the brim with celebrations, obligations and events. It would be so easy to lose our focus on Christ and get enveloped in the stress so we have intentionally tried to find Christ in our everyday.
Instead of letting the season control us, we seek to harness the energy as a means to capture the journey of Advent and the spirit of the season to draw us into the ongoing story of Christmas.
Our Practical Advent may not “look” traditional, but it gives us focus and teaches us that Emmanuel (God with us) is present in our quiet times, our busy times, and our family times.
Here’s an example of what we do to invite Christ into our calendar all month long.
Advent Day 1 – HOPE, to wait expectantly. This week we are going to have the opportunity to talk about hoping and waiting with each activity we do. Look for HOPE throughout the week and remember we are WAITING for Jesus to be born on Christmas day
Day 2 – Baking Christmas cookies. One of the hardest things to do on this day is to WAIT for those cookies to bake and cool so we can eat them. How is this like waiting for Jesus? We only have to wait 8 minutes. The Isrealites waited 400 years! How do you think they felt?
Day 3 – Christmas Cards. How fun is it to HOPE every day that a card comes in the mail on Christmas? When you go to the mailbox, you go expecting to find something there. That’s how God wants us to wait on Him, with hope and expectation that He will be there and that He has something for us.
Day 4 – Elementary Christmas concert. Sometimes these concerts can be very long and not fun to wait through but we WAIT in HOPE to see one face, the face of the one we love, our daughter because we love her and we want to see her and be with her. With that same desire, we can HOPE during the long, hard times in life to see the face of Jesus, because we love him and we want to be with him.
Day 5 – Christmas Party #1 (in our case, a party for recent graduates). Think about the people who graduated today. They had to WAIT for 4 years to get their degree. But while they waited, they also worked hard in the HOPES that after graduation they could use their degree for Christ. While we wait for Christ to return, we don’t just sit around. We do His work as the body of Christ and hope that our service here will grow His kingdom in heaven
It’s not about cutting out the activities or getting stressed out about the busyness; it’s about inviting Christ into every aspect of our life. Emmanuel – God with us.
In the next few weeks we will experience Peace by watching the Nativity Story, enjoying hot cocoa and cookies with company, and wrapping presents; Joy by making gifts for others, going caroling, and doing a Christmas Scavenger Hunt with friends; and Love by reading the Christmas story, thanking our family for their love, and worshiping on Christmas morning.
It’s not theologically deep and complicated and it doesn’t take long to share. However, the whole feeling of our celebration changes with this simple acknowledgement of Emmanuel and invitation to seek Him in the middle of our Christmas chaos.
More than likely, your calendar looks a lot like ours. Elementary Christmas programs, church events, school events, Christmas parties, holiday baking, family reunions, gift wrapping, present shopping, tree decorating, and the list goes on and on.
Why not take advantage of the moments and look for Jesus in each one?
Just a little intentional thought on our part can lead to a beautiful transformation from a stressful, busy season to a hopeful, peace-filled, joyous, loving celebration of Advent and the birth of our Savior, Emmanuel, God with us.
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.