I think it is safe to say that we want our days to count for something. We want our work to produce, we want our parenting to make a difference, we want this Advent season to be more meaningful than the last one or as meaningful. We don’t want to waste our time.
But what are we really saying?
Here is a quote from Oswald Chambers that I think sums it up nicely. He says, “It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God — but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people — and this is not learned in five minutes.” (My Utmost for His Highest)
~ Emily P. Freeman, The Next Right Thing episode 17
Some years ago I wrote that I felt Advent was passing me by, that somehow I had missed something.
No matter what I did or didn’t do, it just didn’t feel like enough. It didn’t feel… I don’t know, special? Holy? I now realize I didn’t understand Advent, much like I didn’t understand Lent. New to liturgy and the idea of a Church calendar, I was enthusiastic in my appreciation of the season and wanted every moment to count.
I think somehow I confused Advent with doing.
Bake cookies for the neighbors!
Take treats to the firemen!
Decorate the tree!
Sing Christmas carols to shut-ins!
Look at lights!
Make a gingerbread house!
Ice skate in the park!
See the Nutcracker!
None of these actions are bad, understand. Done in the right spirit, they are faithful, fun, and festive holiday activities. But none of them have anything to do with Advent – not necessarily, anyway. I would argue even the Christian things can deplete our hope.
And that’s what Advent really is. Expectant, joyful hope.
We’re preparing for our Savior.
I’m an enormous fan of Christmas and love the festivities as much as anyone, but even I must admit that baking cookies doesn’t set my mind on things above. Unless…
Can I share those cookies with someone? Can I somehow share the love of God with them? Hmmm. Maybe this could be an Advent activity.
See, I believe Advent is less about the doing and more about the being. How will you be this season? Will you be joyful, peaceful, and hopeful?
If putting together a gingerbread house creates a family argument, maybe it’s time to stop that tradition.
If you discover no one actually likes the Nutcracker, why go?
If a family devotion wreaks havoc in your home, there is a different way to hide Scripture in the hearts of your children.
Does the Christmas Eve church service send your special needs child over the edge? If so, perhaps it is time to consider what Sandra Peoples* suggests:
The less flexible my child is, the more flexible I need to be. I’m the adult and I have to act like it, even when I’m feeling stressed or embarrassed. That means I may have to bend some of my usual standards to keep the peace.
Advent will truly feel empty – we will have missed it – if we don’t know what it is we’re trying to achieve. We will rush and do and give without meaning and purpose.
So, I ask you this important question today:
What prepares your heart for Christ?
* Sandra’s 5 Keys to a Calm Christmas is an exceptional guide for parents and other relatives who need to understand their special kiddos this season. Sign up here: bit.ly/calmChristmas