INTENTIONAL ADVENT: Enjoying the Better Portion of Christmas
UNHURRY HACK: Moments of worship scattered throughout our day can keep Jesus at the heart of our holiday worship this year.
FIRST READ: Luke 10
Verse focus - (Luke 10:38-42)
ENJOYING THE BETTER PORTION OF CHRISTMAS...
I’m always amazed how quickly Christmas Day comes and goes each year. Shortly after August we begin to see red and green signal flares of retail reminding us to start getting ready for the big day. It seems like stores announce the start to the holiday season earlier and earlier each year. And yet, I routinely celebrate Christmas wondering if I am prepared.
How is this possible? We have the ability to prepare for weeks if not months, and yet we can still feel a tug that something is lacking. Deep down I think our heart knows that no shiny décor, BOGO sale, or savory Pinterest recipe can ready us for worship.
Have you been there too? It can leave us stuck somewhere between bows and boxes with a heart crying out for more. Something deeper. Something better...
Perhaps somewhere along the way, have we let store shelves become our advent?
While meaningful traditions and celebrations help us countdown to Christmas, they can also keep us preoccupied. By the time December 25th finally rolls around, sometimes we can hardly enjoy it. At my house, the many days of planning, shopping, wrapping, and baking can easily be consumed in a brief morning.
Hours of planning often go into our celebrations of this blessed day, and while it is fun and memory-making, it can be easy to let details derail us from true purpose. Is there is a better portion of Christmas just behind the veil of our to-do lists?
The Lord taught a woman named Martha about the heart of this kind of preparation while visiting her house one day. If we lean in and listen, we too will find rest and focus as we prepare for our Savior. Luke 10 tells of two excited sisters:
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” (Luke 10:38-40).
Mary was excited to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen as he taught. Mary was excited to serve. Both perhaps started with heart of worship, but distraction carried Mary away. When Mary confronted him about her sister’s lack of help, Jesus spoke to all of us. “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).
I can certainly identify with Martha here, I mean, that Christmas dinner doesn’t cook itself. However, a few words catch my eye like my own reflection in a mirror.
Jesus explains that Martha was anxious and troubled in her serving. She was fretting over the details and workload. Her serving had consumed her. Yikes! How many times have I let the details of preparation and hospitality consume me?
Distraction is a subtle tactic of the enemy, and he uses anything he can to get our eyes off of God, even our recipes and serving platters. No one wants to be stuck at the sink while friends and family gather in the next room. Yet, with a heart focused on worship, these less glamorous moments of serving can become treasured moments to worship.
Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us, “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Perhaps both Mary and Martha both had the opportunity to serve the Lord in their own intentional ways, but Mary is the one who kept her heart focused on worship.
This Christmas there will be treasured moments of sitting and listening, and there will be moments of service. We can do both at the feet of Jesus. Intentional advent is about a balance of activity and keeping our focus on Jesus. It is about following the star of Bethlehem.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:10-15).
Like the shepherds, intentional advent is about letting the long awaited Savior of the world interrupt our daily routine. It’s about awe and wonder. It’s about purposeful, focused moments of worshipping God.
This Christmas set aside time to remember who Jesus is and why he came to earth. Fully God and fully man, the long awaited Messiah still deserves our pause and presence in the big and small moments of our day.
The word Advent means “Coming” in Latin and ushers in the celebration of the birth our Savior Jesus Christ. These four weeks leading up to Christmas Day are intended to prepare our hearts for worship and remembrance of the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“…Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
Whether it is getting up 5 minutes earlier, keeping sticky notes with scripture in places around the home that we typically work, or setting aside a special coffee date alone with and Jesus, moments of worship scattered throughout our day can keep Jesus at the heart of our holiday worship this year. In addition, I have found that the tradition of the advent wreath is an excellent tradition to weekly reset my heart in the days leading up to Christmas.
While advent wreaths can be purchased, a simple piece of garland or an evergreen bough can also do the trick. If you prefer freshly cut Christmas trees, this is a great way to use those branches that undoubtedly need trimming once the tree is brought inside. Sometimes tree farms will even trim them for you or sell bundles of boughs to use for decoration. The greenery symbolizes everlasting life and the ring points to God’s unending love. Great gift idea for this year!
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Five candles are then typically placed within the wreath. A large white candle is placed in the center of the wreath and is lit on Christmas Day to honor the birth of Jesus. Surrounding the white candle are four smaller candles (three purple and one pink candle) signifying hope, love, joy, and peace.
Make time this advent season to pray over distraction and focus this season, using these verses as an opportunity to prepare your heart for the worship and celebration of the birth of Christ.
On the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day, though variations exist, advent candles are often lit in this order:
Week 1 – light a purple candle: Hope
This candle reminds us of the promise of the Messiah foretold by the prophets.
A verse to meditate: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).
Pause to pray: Thank you God that you keep your promises. I am reminded that your Word is always true and faithful. Every single day I can place my trust in your unchanging promises. Amen.
Week 2 – light a purple candle: Love
This candle reminds us of God’s great love. This candle reminds us of the work that Jesus did on earth preparing hearts to be reconciled with God by His love and grace.
A verse to meditate: “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Pause to Pray: Dear God, thank you for sending Your One and Only Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. Only by your great work on this cross am I made right with God. Thank you for saving me by your grace and love. Amen.
Week 3 – light a pink candle: Joy
This candle points us to praise and worship. Joy to the world!
A verse to meditate: When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11).
Pause to pray: God you are worthy of all my worship. You are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Lord of my life, mold and shape me, and lead me in Your perfect way. Amen
Week 4 – light a purple candle: peace
This candle point us to the hope and promise of everlasting peace.
A verse to meditate: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men. (Luke 2:14).
Pause to pray: Dear God, only in Christ can I find perfect and everlasting peace. Thank you for the promise perfect eternal peace and daily peace as I dwell in your presence. Help me share the hope and peace of the gospel message to the world around me. Amen
Christmas Day – light a white candle: Christ
This candle reminds us of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A verse to meditate: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Pause to pray: Dear God let my heart worship you daily. Mold and shape me and teach me to walk daily with you Jesus. Amen.
Join me in praying:
A PRAYER FOR INTENTIONAL ADVENT:
Dear Lord, like Mary I want to listen and sit at your feet, and like Mary I want a servant heart. Create in me a heart of worship to serve you in both. Make me aware of the moments of holiday bustle that I become distracted and anxious. I want to experience the better portion of Christmas. Bring me back to a heart focused on you Jesus. Amen.