Our Elf is not on the shelf this year. She’s happily resting on a ladder propped against the tree. She’ll stay there with her little sideways grin until we pack all the stuff up until next year. (Unless, that is, our fifteen-year-old decides she wants to use the elf to torment her daddy at some point this month.)
I’ve got two Advent calendars and a little chalkboard to count down the days set out. But, let’s be real here, it’s only December 3 and I’m already behind.
As much as I loved the Advent wreath in our church when I was growing up, I’ve never managed to successfully get that tradition started here at the Underwood abode.
And, the stack of Advent devotionals grows every year but I tend to go back to just one … and even then I sometimes spend Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon trying to catch up on the readings.
We are a busy family. I don’t wear it as a badge of honor or a mark of shame. It’s just a fact. With a husband on staff at an amazing church and a teenage daughter who is active and social (and, let’s face it, I have a few things on my own plate as well), our calendar stays pretty full most of the time. October through February is the most chaotic time of the year … and guess what falls smack dab in the middle of that crazy? Advent.
As a Type A, Enneagram type 3 (achiever), ENFP (campaigner) person, I want to do it all and do it all perfectly … and I want to make sure you want to do it all too. So when it comes to Advent, all that energy and drive and desire means I basically want to read every devotional, do every activity, and drag my less-than-enthusiastic family along with me … until I get bored or captivated by a new idea. (ADD much?)
In the past few weeks, I’ve had several big projects to complete and that has left me without as much time to
dream plan a perfect Advent for our family. (Yes, the people here in the house breathed a collective sigh of relief.) One word has been resounding in my spirit — abide.
Jesus speaks about abiding in John 15, urging His disciples to grasp what it is to walk steadily with Him and know Him deeper. My soul and my body need some space, y’all. In the middle of all this chaos, I feel my spirit yearning for stillness and quiet. And I read this:
When we cut through the sentiment and marketing to the spiritual riches of Christmas, we recover not only a sense of who God is, but also we we are as human beings.
Such a recovery cannot happen in a day … real, lasting change comes about over time. **
Advent is an invitation for us to prepare and anticipate the wonder of God wrapped in flesh, God with us, a baby in a manger. If we’re going to recover that sense of who God is and through that who we are — it’s going to take time. Not time to plan activities but time to ponder our hearts. It’s easy to practice Advent and do all the stuff but miss the point.It's easy to practice Advent and plan all the activities but miss the point. Click To Tweet
Advent is an invitation for us “to take stock of our souls and be at our best when the special day arrives.” ** Y’all, I don’t know about you, but all the hustle and planning and doing of all the Advent activities and devotionals and calendars and plans can leave me at far less than my best when the special day —Christmas — arrives.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with watching a movie every day with your kids or marking off the days on your calendar or even reading a special devotional every day. There isn’t! But if you have to choose (and let’s face it, many of us will), might you consider choosing space in your heart and mind for reflecting on the holy and wholly undeserved gift of Christmas — Emmanuel, God with us?
This year, I’ve just cut way back. I’m not worried about the calendars and devotionals. I’m reading Luke, a chapter a day through Christmas Eve, and most mornings I’m also using my favorite Advent guide. But mostly, I’m prioritizing moments of stillness, those easily missed pockets of time when I can simply “be still and know” that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Perhaps your Advent plans have already fallen apart. Or maybe you’re just going through the motions. Can I tell you, you don’t have to! Seriously. You don’t. It will be okay. I promise.
Why does Advent matter? Not because of traditions or making memories (even though those can be important parts of the season). Advent matters because it is a beautiful invitation to stop in the midst of all the chaos and see, as if for the first time, a world and our own hearts aching with need for a Savior. As we see this need, we look forward to celebrating the moment when everything changed … when a Baby’s cry pierced a dark night in a stable in a little town and God is now, and always, with us.Why does advent matter? Maybe not for the reasons you think. Click To Tweet
** My favorite Advent guide is God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas. Y’all, I cannot recommend it highly enough. (That is an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission if you purchase through it.) I have the hardback copy and this is the fourth year I’ve used it. It’s got layers of underlining, stars, hearts, circled words, exclamation points, and notes in the margins. It’s full of beautiful writing and images and also contains information about the history of practices and feasts associated with the season. I really think every family should have this book. Even if you don’t have a liturgical bent, understanding more about the practice of Advent throughout church history and around the world is important. (commercial over)