About 15 years ago, I decided I’d had it with Santa. Dan and I were the ones saving and shopping and wrapping and staying up Christmas Eve to put together 42 pieces of a Barbie house while Santa got all the credit.
And that hit home. Santa was getting far too much attention in a season meant for Jesus.
In a season meant exclusively for Jesus.
That year, I went through the whole house and bagged up every Santa decoration, ornament and book to take to the thrift store. We stopped writing letters or lists for Santa, standing in line for pictures at the mall and playing up the fiction that is Santa.
Instead, we collected manger scenes and set them around the house, on the tree, on the front lawn. We bought books that reflected the real Christmas story and started our first Advent traditions.
Since then, I’ve come to love Advent. Advent stems from a Latin root that means “a coming, approach, arrival.”
Advent helps us celebrate Jesus – exclusively, supremely.
While many churches observe Advent the four Sundays before Christmas, family Advent traditions can be more intimate and personal. Here are seven reasons to celebrate Advent with your family.
1)Advent lets us prepare him room.
With a culture that launches into Christmas with the consumer-frenzy that is Black Friday and then packs the next weeks leading up to Christmas with all things North Pole, reindeer and elves, incorporating Advent traditions in our families keeps our focus on Jesus.
In the busyness of December, keeping Advent helps us push pause each day and quiet our hearts to focus on the significance of Jesus’ birth.
2) Advent helps us teach our children gospel truth.
The redemption of the cross is rooted in the manger. Reading scriptures of Jesus’ birth lets us teach our kids solid doctrines like sin and reconciliation; Jesus’ deity and the Trinity. They can ask questions and as they grow they’ll understand a bit more about who God is and how we relate to him.
3) Advent is a time to worship.
We celebrate the King of kings and Lord of lords who wrapped himself in the flesh of an infant. Mary worshipped after the angel announced she would bear the Messiah. Elizabeth worshipped when Mary came to visit and Zechariah worshipped as soon as God restored his voice. The shepherds dropped everything to worship Jesus and the Magi searched to worship him. Carving out time for Advent allows us to worship our King.
4) Advent reminds us that God is faithful.
Christmas is God’s promise fulfilled. God promised a Redeemer just three chapters into Genesis and that promise is woven through the next 38 books, multiple authors and thousands of years until it’s realized in Jesus’ birth.
Advent affirms that God’s word and prophesies are true. How fitting that Christmas comes in the last few days of the year – an annual reminder that though it may tarry, God will fulfill what he’s promised.
5) Advent lets us dig down deep.
The prophesies and passages detailing Jesus’ birth may be familiar and we may have read them multiple times every year for decades. And yet God’s word is so incredibly rich, he always has more for us — personal application and fresh conviction, deeper understanding and new insight.
Advent Bible study isn’t so that we’ll know more but so that we’ll know God more. God’s word is alive and active. It never returns void and will accomplish God’s purposes for us.
6) Advent reveals purpose in suffering.
The birth of Jesus is a story with suffering. The prophets who foretold it suffered. Elizabeth and Zechariah experience years of infertility. Mary and Joseph endured not only public humiliation at Mary’s pregnancy before marriage but the long travel to Bethlehem, rude delivery conditions, the threat from Herod and flight to Egypt. And yet it was God’s sovereign plan. While we’re apt to question why, Advent affirms that God has purpose in suffering.
7) Advent helps us anticipate Jesus’s second coming.
Advent is both a look back at Jesus’ birth and a look forward to his second coming. Israel waited and watched for the Messiah for millennia, just as we’ve waited for his second coming. Simeon, Anna and the Magi waited with active expectation he would come. Others grew so stuck to their manmade ways they rejected him altogether. Are we waiting well? Are we prepared for Jesus’ second advent?
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Unwrap the real Christmas story with your family as you build your Nativity one piece each day along with corresponding scripture and readings from my family Advent devotion Countdown to Christmas.