3 Quick Tips for an A+ Advent Season

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Christmas is just a few days away! Let that sink in. Even though I’m one of the people who eagerly awaits Christmas all year, I’m often surprised at how quickly it seems to come and go. Especially this year when we’re still very much in a pandemic, time seems to be some sort of amorphous vacuum (a phrase I made up today). The days fly by, and the season can easily become a blur of sales, gift wrapping, and lots of Lifetime Christmas movies (if you’re like me). Packed schedules, work, shopping, and endless holiday events are all good things with the capacity to snatch valuable reflection time this season. But for the Christian believer, this season is more than just a few weeks of binging Christmas movies and trying out various cookie recipes (although there is undoubtedly time for that, too). It’s Advent season!

My mood on December 1st…also Christmas colors are not limited to winter, y’all!
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). - Matthew 1:23

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”. The coming of what, or Whom? (Hint: the word Christmas contains the answer!)The season, typically spanning from a date at the end of November or beginning of December and lasting until Christmas Day, marks a time of anticipation, reflection, and celebration of the coming of Christ. The birth of Baby Jesus, His perfect life, His horrific death on a cross for all of humanity to be reconciled back to God, and ultimately His Resurrection? Yeah, it’s a lot to chew on. I would argue that even a month isn’t enough time to wrap my head around it all, especially with everything else marking this season. But this good news, that a mere baby from heaven would be born to mere teens in a manger, that He would enter the world to bring peace and righteousness, hope, joy, and ultimately new life through His own death, is not something I want to skim over because I’m too foggy from the hot cocoa. I’ve been challenged by my church’s sermon series on Advent to brainstorm how I can make the most of this Advent season, especially this final week. In my classic adoration of alliteration, I’ve thought of 3 strategies to have an A+ Advent season below.

  1. Attend. Honestly, this may be the hardest one. As 90% of Peloton instructors remind us, “Half the battle is just showing up!” And ain’t it the truth!? Most of us have firmly established schedules already, and trying to find “extra” time at a point in the year when work is ramping up and other obligations tug on us can be difficult. But as I’ve learned to be true with most things, to get results you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. It’s taken me a while to figure out how I would show up this Advent season. Strategies that have helped me are the same ones that I have to employ to my regular quiet times and even my pockets of deep work. Setting an alarm or timer, removing distractions, and sitting somewhere different can all help shift me into preparation for a sacred time. (Case and point, I wrote most of this post from my husband’s work desk!). Thankfully, most cell phones have features to block distracting notifications and access to apps for a limited time. Alternatively, if you’re like me and appoint most of your close friends into accountability partners, sending a quick text confirming that you’re about to enter your advent season reflection time can help keep you on track, too!
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. - Mark 1:35
  1. Ask. As kids, many of us are taught to sit in Santa’s lap and ask this jolly, old, bearded man in a bright red suit for pretty much anything we want. As we’ve aged, many of us have tempered our requests from things like unicorns and a garage full of toddler Barbie jeeps (and more recently, toddler Barbie Lamborghini’s) as we’ve learned the truth about Santa. A little depressing, unless you realize that in Christ, we can still bring our childlike posture before the Lord. Scripture tells us we can ask for anything in His name, and He hears us. Thankfully, He also knows us better than we know ourselves, so He answers our prayers in the best way. This season, I’ve been challenged to ask God for my desires and wants to line up with His will and what He wants for me. I can trust that whatever His response is, is the right one. In addition to asking the Lord for what I want, I’ve also tried to ask the Lord what He wants from me this season. Is there a ~challenging~ coworker I’m supposed to spend more time with? Am I missing some key prayer time on my morning commute? Do I need to cancel some plans to have some holy rest? It’s a little daunting to ask the Lord of creation what He wants from me because I know He’ll answer pretty clearly, but we can rest assured that He loves us infinitely more than a dad dressed up as Santa listening to His beloved children talk to Him.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:7-11 NIV
  1. Abide. This is such a churchy word, but in short, to abide means to remain, to continue, to stay, or to dwell. I think it’s crucial as believers that we place Christ at the forefront and center of every aspect of the CHRISTmas celebrations. For me, this means that I have to balance my Grammy-worthy sessions of Mariah Carey and Justin Beiber Christmas albums (both of which I love a LOT) with songs that remind me of Christmas being about Jesus’s birth and the hope He brings into the world. There are so many catchy, beautiful albums to get on repeat (A Very Maverick Christmas, anyone?). It’s also been cool to incorporate prayer as I’m hanging garland, adorning the Christmas tree, or else decorating the house. Abiding in this season also means making sure I’m prioritizing time with the Lord as I make my Christmas plans. If I look at my week and I have too many holiday parties to have solid reflection time, rearranging is okay. Lastly, there are so many well-written advent devotionals to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to read through the birth and life of Jesus, study different names for God, or just reflect on how the entire Old Testament points to the coming of Christ, there is something for everyone. Many of the plans on the Bible app can be done with a friend as well. Making time to go through guided reflection about advent is a really great way for me to receive a daily reminder of what the season is all about.
 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. - John 15:4 ESV

Full disclosure – I’m currently two days behind on one of my advent devotionals, and I feel like I can’t wrap up this post without screaming about how imperfect I am when it comes to following my own advice! As I’ve previously mentioned, sanctification is a slow and steady process, and I have a long way to go in developing the disciplines of attending, asking, and abiding in my faith. Still, I know that nothing is impossible with God, and that He delights in drawing us nearer to Him every day. The work is worth it, and the gift we rejoice in, wrapped not in a shiny bow under the tree but a swaddling cloth in a humble manger, is the sweetest gift we can receive. I hope these quick tips help you remember to slow down this season and reflect in awe of the miracle of Advent. Until next time – Merry Christmas, y’all!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… - 1 Peter 1:3 NIV
I’m celebration of the sweetest season of the year!
Tis the season 😂

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