Advent: An Intentional Preparation
This December, we are honored to share four guest posts surrounding the Season of Advent -- all from those we love that have created memories and traditions that we believe will uplift and encourage your heart, as you and your family also prepare for the celebration of Christmas. Today, Shary Green, family friend and spiritual warrior, provides the third installment in our Advent series. This is a post we will refer to for years to come, as she outlines an intentional and meaningful way to prepare your heart (and your family's heart) this Christmas season. She brings Christ to the center of her daily routine in a way that's easy and approachable. Also, her recommendations for kid's books will have you running to your local library or jumping on Amazon -- they are so good! We hope the message brings you joy and encouragement.
My first son was nine months old for his first Christmas. We learned a good deal about germs that are spread in the winter being around other children. I don’t think I made it to a single church service that year during the month of December. I remember one Sunday, feeling desperate to hear the Christmas music, I packed up my sick child, paced the floor of the lobby during the service, and left before the service was over. It was a very lonely feeling that year. But the beauty of that year, is that it forced me to realize that I didn’t have to be in a church service in order to prepare my heart for worship. While it’s helpful to have others around you as you worship, God desires to meet us in our solitude as well.
Here are a few tips I learned along the way.
Plan ahead. Of course, everything you read about preparing for Christmas tells us to plan ahead. So what does that have to do with preparing our hearts? If we plan ahead, we can accomplish the tasks that must be done early, which allows for plenty of time to spend time in personal worship and devotion. I make lists and try to have most of my shopping done by Thanksgiving or early December. Don’t overdo on decorating/baking/wrapping, unless that’s your favorite thing to do! Along with planning ahead, enlist help from the rest of the family. One friend of mine, a military family who moves frequently, says all her decorating can be done in about 2 hrs. There’s something to be said for that simplicity.
Be intentional. Most of my decorating has meaning and purpose. Lights in the windows represent Jesus as the Light of the World and remind me to be light to those in my neighborhood that see those lights every night. I also want my home to be a beacon in the dark world. When putting ornaments on the tree, the angel choir goes on first because the angels were the first to proclaim the good news of Jesus. When my boys were young, I would explain this to them every year. This year, as they are mostly grown and flown, I was decorating the tree myself and thinking on the multitude of angels and the wonderful message they had the privilege to share. Why should I keep this amazing message to myself? God, give me a heart to share your news. Barbara Rainey from Family Life Today has a line of tree ornaments focusing on the names of Jesus. I’ve just ordered some to create a Jesus tree in our entry way.
Don’t overschedule. This really follows naturally from the first two lessons. Plan ahead and be intentional about what activities you want to attend. Don’t schedule every minute of every day during this season, especially when children are young. No one will enjoy the season if the little people are frazzled. We always chose to have time to focus on Jesus rather than running to all the good things there are to do during this season.
Music! Music speaks to me and touches my heart. I don’t ever want the Advent season to be an academic exercise; it should change my heart. I like to have Christmas music playing the whole month of December. At the beginning of the month, I spend time listening to the words and focusing on the message. The rest of the month it can seep into my soul. It’s important to me that the music reflect the heart of Christ and not have a message of the worldly view of the holiday.
Advent Calendar. This was central to our family’s devotional time as we raised our sons. I’m not talking about the type of Advent calendars that contain candy or gifts. Our calendar included scripture with explanation suitable to their ages. An explanation of the prophecies about Jesus, seeing their fulfillment, seeing our sin and the wonderful gift of redemption was how we spent time each day (or most) discussing these things. An “ornament” was placed on a tree banner and we reviewed each day. This was displayed in a very visible spot in our home so that it was shared with all who entered our home.
Here are a few suggestions for books to read with your children.
Children’s Book Ideas
Now that I’m quickly facing an empty nest, I look forward to even more time to soak in the message of Christmas and the good news that a Savior has been who came to take away my sins. He came that He might live a sinless life, would die to pay the price for my sins and then would rise from the dead! He did this all for me! What an amazing gift.
May you have a blessed Christmas as you focus on the Christ who came to bring hope for the weary world that we might live with him eternally.
About the Author: Shary Green has been married for over 33 years and is the mom of two boys, ages 23 and 19. She’s been a pastor’s wife for over 25 years during which she’s moved many, many times all while homeschooling her boys. She has also served as a mentor mom and has a heart for helping young women learn to love their husbands and children and bring honor and glory to God. She currently resides in Hagerstown, MD. (Our family and extended family look up to Shary so much -- she is a spiritual mentor and encourager, and we're thankful for her friendship!).