It is an honor for me to write for this project a second time this year. It’s special to write a year end review and give a focus on the advent. I’ve never really used an advent calendar or done an advent study, and I don’t know all the words to the 12 days of Christmas, so I’m feeling unqualified. I researched advent to make sure I had the right idea. It means the arrival of a notable person which is part of what we look back at and celebrate at Christmas time. It can also mean the season of 4 Sundays before Christmas when the church prepares and celebrates the season of Christmas. It can also refer to (and I didn’t know this before) the second coming of Christ. It’s here that the season comes to life for me. Those of us rejoicing in Christs’ first coming have the meaning of Christmas in right context. Christian homes have trees presents and stockings, but keep their focus on the birth of the savior.
I’ll start by saying that God has been speaking to me about the name Emmanuel for the past few seasons. In Isaiah 7:14 His name is announced. Emmanuel, God with us. He walked among men after his birth and embodied the name. Forgive me, but I can’t easily separate Christmas from Easter (resurrection Sunday). Because He died and rose again and gave us His spirit, he is still with us! This has been the Christmas anthem in our house for a few years now. He was born to be Emmanuel, God with us, He died to pay for our sins, and rose again to conquer death and live with us in eternity. So, he can be God with us eternally! If we have received Christ’s free gifts of Salvation and surrendered our lives to Him, then He is still and eternally God with us.
Our family is having our first Christmas in the US for 9 years. We are blessed to have snow, a real Christmas tree (they smell so good) and family around us for the first time in so long. But we also feel the weight of commercialism that shifts the focus off the giver and highlights the gifts. We were serving in SE Asia for many years and found a missionary retreat center in Thailand that became a Christmas tradition for us. It was a sweet time of rest and relaxation every December. We had sweet fellowship with other families during similar work in similar fields. We spent our money on the trip and did not exchange gifts, which also became a tradition for us. So being here in the hustle and bustle can be a distraction. We went from having no list at all, which seemed to bring contentment, to a long list from each of our four children. We always had an artificial tree in our overseas apartment, but we never put anything under it. We taught our kids to treasure the season and focus on Him, not to treasure the things under the tree.
So how can we re-enter our home culture and keep Christ as the center of this holiday? It might sound funny to say that because so many people in the US celebrate Christmas and many rejoice for the right reasons. Shouldn’t it be easier to stay focused? We found that in a land where not many celebrate Christmas (because not many know about Christ) it was easy to tell the story correctly and not get swept away by the revenue driven throng.
For us this year, we want to stay focused on the story. I encourage you to start in Luke chapter 2. Then look at Isaiah Chapter 9. Here we see that Jesus is a light born into dark world. Scripture says the world was dark when Christ came into the world. It says the people rejoiced and that their joy was increased. I think our world needs the light. I want that rejoicing spirit and increased joy in my heart all year, not just at Christmas time. Remember Jesus is the light of the world; John 8: 12. The world has light because Jesus was born. So, lets celebrate! (I do know all the words to “Celebrate Good Times” by Lionel Richie) Ha!Ha! Isaiah 9 vs6 gives us all we need to keep our focus on Christ this year. Here we read that He is wonderful. That’s why we celebrate. He’s wonderful and that’s why we serve Him. He is our counselor when things are new and confusing. He is mighty to save us!
With out that great vacation and fellowship we must trust him to give us the rest and relaxation. It says in His word that He can, and He will. That He wants to! Matthew 28:11.
This year we must trust Him to be our peace. Isaiah 32:17 If He is the prince of peace, surely, He can give peace to our hearts.