A challenge to pastors who preach year after year on Christmas Eve and on Easter is to infuse the message with a freshness to capture the listeners’ heart and bring alive the stories of God’s incarnation, His sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection.
I think that each of us face a similar challenge during these seasons...that of allowing the wonder of what God has done to reignite our first love for Him. To experience the Holy Spirit’s touch in our life...an experience that cannot help but bring us to our knees in reverent thanksgiving.
Combining the cultural aspect of this season (shopping, decorating, baking, etc.) with the spiritual act of heart preparation for our coming King is a difficult balancing act. Helping our children understand the context of Jesus’s birth at the same time that Santa is up on the rooftop with Donner, Blitzen and the other reindeer is a responsibility and joy of Christian parents (and grandparents!) everywhere.
So...what are some of your favorite traditions during the season of Advent that help to accomplish these goals? I’ll share some of ours, and you can add yours below in the comment section for others to read and enjoy.
First off, Sue is a master baker and decorator. As soon as the last of the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers is consumed, out of the basement come the Christmas decorations. She decorates the whole house from the kitchen to the bathrooms with wonderful touches. Our tree is purchased soon thereafter and is up by early December (this month in November!). The baking then commences and lasts throughout most of the month. The challenge is to make enough cookies so that there are still enough of them from Christmas through New Year’s to satisfy all who want some. Raiding the freezer before Christmas for some cookies is a favorite pastime...
We have an Advent wreath on the kitchen table, and the candles get lit at dinnertime throughout the month, marking the passage of weeks. An Advent book (here are some examples) provides Scriptures and stories that are read over the evening meal. The prophecies from the Old Testament that point the way to the manger and the cross are always amazing to hear.
Nativity sets are a wonderful way to remind ourselves and others of our how our Savior came into our world. I picked up an olive wood set when I was in the Holy Land, and about three years ago we purchased a beautiful outdoor nativity that is always a joy to arrange near the driveway. Taking some quiet time with the Lord by the nativity (the INDOOR one!) is something that I try to do during Advent, reflecting on what God has done for me...and how I can live in a way to honor Him.
Christmas Eve is a combination of last minute wrapping, welcoming out-of-town family, attending worship, reading some Christmas stories (secular as well as THE Christmas story from Luke 2) before bedtime, enjoying a glass of eggnog by the fireside, and experiencing the peace of the moment while watching the Christmas tree with all its ornaments and gifts beneath. It’s a wonderful time.
The Advent season is capped off by the lighting of the center white candle on Christmas day, and realizing that Christ has come into the world. And what a difference that has made....
Please take a moment to share your own Advent and Christmas traditions below...