Holidays can be harsh. The shiny glitz for many seems to only bring into sharp relief how hard their life currently is. In this one week I have been with people doing the best they can in the face of broken families, custody struggles, suicide, prostitution and porn addiction. Tis the season! Add to this the grief my own family is walking through and it can be difficult to remember that these days are intended to be holy, set apart. For all of these reasons and more, it only seems appropriate to spend a little time looking forward to the hope that is to come. It’s easier to write a blog post about what I am against. Using some manner of snark or sarcasm to tear someone or something else apart. I’m just not into that. It seems there are plenty of others who live in that space. I’m not saying I will never critique someone or something, but for now, for today I want to be more known for what I am for than against.
With this in mind…I offer five things for advent that I just love. Five things that really do impact daily life as well as the bigger picture of the holiday season. May you find something here to spur you on to love and good deeds, to knowing you are God’s beloved child with whom He is well pleased.
1) Devotions for Advent- Hands down, my favorite seasonal devotional! Tyndale put this together a few years ago and it is great. Thoughtful, beautiful and interactive. Thanks for a grown up devotional that is not maudlin or tired. Still time to check it out on the PDF or order online. Totally worth it!
2) How to curb that list- A few years ago a good friend offered this phrase to help us re-focus Christmas, especially when it comes to gifts. “Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.” It certainly cuts down on the insanity of shopping and forces choices for the best gifts instead of simply more. **Note- grandparents are exempt whether you want them to be or not, they will ignore you. ***Note- I still cheat and fill the stockings with whatever I can get in.
3) Countdown to Christmas-Love, Love, Love this!! A family, interactive devotional for kids but doesn’t make you as the parent want to gouge your eyes out. You will want to read at least a day ahead to prep but nothing is terribly difficult and for the few that need supplies, they can be found around the house.
4) Paper Chain Countdown- Write out the Christmas story from the gospels and divide it into 25 sections (Matthew 1:18-2:12, Luke 1:26-2:20). Format these on a regular sheet of paper with at least 4 lines of space between and print. Cut the passages into strips and make a paper chain. Each morning, read on portion of the story. With children, review everyday as you unfold the entire story. For adults, this is a great lectio devina to do each day.
5) Whether you like Veggie Tales or not, they have some good stuff for families and I am not ashamed to know the entire opening jingle. St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving has become a favorite of my girls. While this is not Classic Veggie Tales (which is the dividing line for some) it is entertaining and with conversation from family, it is a great tool! Do’t look for complete historical accuracy. What you will find is a way to open conversation for why we give presents on the birthday of Jesus in a way that keeps Jesus as the center AND allows for participation in the culture in which we live. For those of you who tell your toddlers there is no Santa, this is not for you. Also, please kindly stay away from my children. I am just fine with a little fantasy knowing this too shall pass.
6) Bonus Item- I’m pretty excited! I already love our intergenerational class at church. In part because the people are great!! In part because we are always going through really interesting stuff. This year, we are looking at Advent Conspiracy. I’ll let you know on the other side how it goes but if you want to check it out ahead of time, follow the link.