Advent Thought #1
God, You Are Welcome
(For this discussion: you'll need a cross ornament)
Advent is a season of anticipating Christmas. Waiting, expecting, hoping, preparing as you discern how to welcome who is to come: Jesus. The one who brings Christmas, the one who is Christmas. The birth of Jesus is the moment in God’s redemptive story when he enters the world, and into the brokenness of man to bring about wholeness and restoration.
> Why and how is man broken? Discuss this especially if you’re having this conversation with children. How does sin make us feel? How does it affect us?
There was a time after creation where everything was whole, the way God intended. Then sin entered the world, birthed through mankind’s disobedience to God. This is the point in God’s story where his creation became broken. Sin makes us incomplete because it separates us from God and others. Sin breaks relationships, it hurts us, it hinders life and it leads to death. And it is sin that creates the need for a savior, someone to heal and restore, someone to make us whole again. Jesus is the one God chose to enter our world to make all things right, to restore creation back to Him, to unite a people with their God for eternity.
How do we prepare our hearts and homes for such a birth as this?
We know how to prepare for the cultural celebration of Christmas.
> Stop and consider the way your particular family or household prepares for the cultural celebration of Christmas. What are your traditions? What do you do in your home and community to celebrate? Do things in the home get shifted around to make room for the tree? Do you string lights? Do you cook particular meals? What music do you play? Do you participate in activities at church or in your town?
During Christmas, we decorate our homes, we adorn trees, we shop for gifts that we wrap and give, we bake holiday goods and let carols ring. It’s nearly magical, this time of year. The way all people participate. The way everything glitters. The way children grow eager. The way adults become children again. These traditions bring together communities in a special way, and they facilitate a mood for the holidays. They get us excited for what’s to come. They set a tone for our hearts and home to welcome the moment.
But how do we prepare for the real celebration of Christmas? The moment in our history that changed everything, that made all things possible. The moment we were given life through a baby. You see, the cultural traditions don’t ready our heart for the coming of Jesus. In fact, it’s very often these well-intended and meaningful traditions distract us from engaging the real moment that gave reason to the holiday. They exhaust our resources and creativity, leaving little to sacrifice to the Lord. We don’t have to abandon all of our traditions to welcome Christ. But it’s good and faithful for us to discern how to be intentional during this time, and receive these days with grace as we engage both the fun and spirit of Christmas.
Let’s begin this Advent season with prayer. For it is the language of our heart, the love language spoken between a Creator and those created in his image. Prayer invites the Spirit of God to enter into our conversations and thoughts with truth and revelation.
> Pause now to pray and welcome God into your conversations. Ask him to soften hearts and to bring a spirit of discernment to your Advent preparation. Ask God to help you know which traditions and activities will help facilitate a sense of welcome and embrace of Jesus during these days. Which ones are good for your family relationships? And which ones are okay to say no to this year?
You might have a time of silent prayer for individuals to make some personal commitment to this process. And community prayer to acknowledge that the body of Christ is called into this process of anticipation together.
Don’t forget to hang your cross ornament on your altar to symbolize our need for a savior, the very reason for Jesus being born – the one who birthed Christmas.
ABOUT THIS ADVENT DEVOTIONAL
In this month's Wild + Free bundle called WONDER, we're including the entire special-edition Advent Devotional by Lori Manry. This is the first conversation for Advent, which begins today. You can get the entire devotional, along with the WONDER content bundle at wildandfree.co.