After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
Today I sent out invitations for a Christmas pajama party, which I scheduled the week after the Christmas cookie exchange I’m attending, but three days before my church’s annual ladies’ Christmas function. We are entering Advent season, and I am busy. I don’t know about you, but parties, baking, decorating, planning, shopping, and wrapping seem to swallow me whole these few weeks leading up to Christmas.
In mid-November, I usually start telling myself that I need to be more intentional and Christ-focused this year, but then December comes and life shifts into hyper-drive, and before I know it, Christmas is here, and I’m left with nagging guilt and fear that I wasted the Advent season.
I’m desperate for change this year. Advent is a unique and precious time to celebrate the incarnation with our families and churches. It’s a special season to rejoice in the life (and death) of our Savior. This year I’m resolving not to let sentimentalism sabotage my Godward intentionality. Will you join me?
The One Thing You Need to Do This Season
I could give you a list of practical tips and tricks to “keep Christ in Christmas” this year, but I won’t. I think we’ve all read enough of those pieces. Instead, here’s your one challenge this Advent season: reflect. Again and again, stop and think. In the rush and race of December’s busyness, it’s easy to forget that Christmas is for looking back. It’s rich with meaning and significance. To make the most of Advent, reflect and remember exactly what this season celebrates.
[Tweet “This Advent, you are celebrating the incarnation of the all-glorious Creator of the universe.”]
Our intentionality flows directly from here. If we want to form holy habits in these weeks, we must engage our minds. We can make paper prayer chains, sing Christmas carols, and read Luke 2 every night, but if our minds are not fully present, those things are just empty acts— mere fuzzy, gooey traditions without the stony foundation of truth.
This requires being persistent. Every day we need to reflect. When you’re tempted to distraction or discouragement, when you’re sitting happily in front of a lit tree or a roaring fire, when you’re eating turkey or rejoicing with friends and family, stop and think about what you’re celebrating.
You are celebrating the incarnation of the all-glorious Creator of the universe. You are celebrating the joyous humility of the sovereign king. You are celebrating the Trinitarian love that brought Jesus to earth. You are celebrating the perfect and unstoppable plan of God. You are celebrating the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus. You are celebrating the redemption of God’s people. You are celebrating the generosity and grace of God. This season should be a reflection of your worship.
If you’d like some guidance, the following are excellent, gospel-rich resources that will help you meditate over Advent:
- From Creation to Consummation (Colin Smith)
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy (John Piper)
- Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Nancy Guthrie)
Fight Distraction with the Fruit of the Spirit
All of this remembering should lead to a more active cultivation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control this season. This should be the time of year that our intentional reflection on the mercy and might of God through the incarnation should spark a passionate pursuit of holiness.
- Reflecting on God sending his only begotten Son should motivate us to love others better and more—and not just the “lovable” people, but the annoying, frazzled, frustrating, and difficult ones.
- Reflecting on the happiness the news of the incarnation brought (and continues to bring) should reawaken in us a joyful, contented spirit in our celebration of Christmas.
- Reflecting on the salvation Jesus brings and the restoration he promises should instill peace in our restless, busy hearts.
- Reflecting on the grace God showed to undeserving sinners like us should motivate us to be patient and compassionate in our every encounter this season.
- Reflecting on the unmerited and astonishing kindness of God should inspire us to pursue gratitude and acts of kindness (whether little or big, planned or random) with renewed zeal.
- Reflecting on the holiness of God should make us desire to chase goodness and fight sin harder and fiercer.
- Reflecting on the unwavering faithfulness of God in saving and loving his people should make us more faithful in enjoying the spiritual disciplines this season – time in God’s Word, prayer, sharing the gospel, journaling, meditating.
- Reflecting on the meekness of God displayed in Jesus Christ should force us to put away anger, complaining, dissatisfaction, frustration, and irritableness and embrace gentleness instead.
- Reflecting on the perfect life Jesus lived should push us into the arms of self-control – especially in our eating, our spending, and how we use our time.
Make the Most of Advent
This Advent season could be a season like too many others we’ve wasted, whiled away in a flurry of stressed, self-focused distraction. Or it could be different. It could be a season where we slow down and reflect. It could be a season marked with thoughtful intentionality. It could be a season where we’re kinder, gentler, and more loving to the people around us. It could be a season where we’re more restful and joyful as we’re more mindful of the incarnation. It could be a season where we’re more generous and gracious and peaceful.
It could be a season where we draw closer to Christ.
Fellow Christian, this season – like every other season – is what you make of it. How will you spend Advent?