I think I am more excited about celebrating Advent than I have ever been. Living in hopeful anticipation for nearly an entire month sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I didn’t arrive at this place in my Christian journey overnight. In fact, I never practiced Advent before the last few years. I thought it was some type of stuffy, man-made, orthodox, legalistic behavior that really didn’t benefit me as a Christian. I was wrong.
The difference between my “old” opinion and my “new” one is focus. I always knew that Christmas was about Jesus yet I didn’t really live it out. I obeyed the thinking that a whole lot of things had to be done and a whole lot of money was going to be spent by a certain date. That presents had to be perfect. That decorations had to be tasteful. And everyone had to be healthy and happy. That meant that it was a “good” Christmas. Wrong again.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
Anyone in my close family circle knows that I am rarely ever ready for anything early. But I have my Advent wreath ready for this weekend. Complete with new candles and placed where I will light the first candle, the “Hope” candle, this Sunday morning. I plan to reflect on the promise God made to send His Son to us. (Isaiah 7:14) And the promise of His coming again. (Titus 2: 13) And it won’t be stuffy, man-made, orthodox or legalistic. I know in my heart that I don’t really even have to do it to make Him love me anymore than He already does. (Titus 3:4-7) For me, it is just a few moments of worship, of remembrance and thankfulness for the hope He brings into my life that I truly would never want to live without.
“Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:13
Some of you will practice this in your churches. Corporate worship is very important and we should do this together as the Bible commands. (Hebrews 10:25) But, if you feel led to, make Advent more personal to you than it ever has been. Spend some one-on-One time with the Savior during this Advent Season. Reflect on the gift He was and is to this world. Light your own candles of hope, love, joy and peace. Couldn’t we all use a little or a lot more of these?
Now I am not a “scrooge.” The perfect gifts, the tasteful Christmas light displays, the traditional Christmas parties and yes, even Santa, reindeer and elves can be part of this time of year. (And let me not fail to mention “The Nutcracker” ballet.) Those things are not all bad, but they are truly empty if they become our focus.
For many years, I focused on me and mine, instead of Him and His. Just as my opinions didn’t change overnight, my focus will take some time, but I already feel more peaceful about the upcoming month. Praying that letting go of what is temporal and fleeting as that last “must-have” Christmas gift, and taking hold of what really matters. God gave. Jesus came. He is coming again. And we have eternal life because of HIM.