Advent resources for your family

Our plane landed around midnight on December 1st. The previous six months we lived on a South Pacific island, in a city that one friend described as ‘the back side of the postcard.’ We were tired and ready to be home. As our mini-van carried us along, we sat in shocked silence, stunned by how utterly quiet the drive home was. We had forgotten that roads are supposed to be wide, smooth, and fast, rather than narrow, occasionaly paved, and pocked marked like a bombed out World War 2 city. How could we so easily forget what home is like?

I had also forgotten that America is a place that loves to be busy and on the go, even more so in December. Black Friday hits and Americans inject about five cups of Espresso plus a few Red Bulls and stay at that speed until January. Not the best time to come back from Island Life. In 24 hours we went from a place where literally no one was ever in a hurry to a place where everyone was never not in a hurry. After about two days of being on the go, I turned to Julie and said, “I’m not going anywhere else for a while.” It was all too much. She was ready to hit the ground running, but I needed a longer on-ramp to adjust.

December 1 launches our church into the advent season. Advent simply means ‘coming’ in Latin. It’s the 24 days leading up to Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s ‘coming,’ his arrival on earth. Here’s my encouragement to you: Let’s try to make it even more of a priority to carve out time to connect with Jesus this December. Martin Luther said something like, “I have so much to do today that I need to spend some extra time in prayer.” The crazy pace of December requires us to be much more intentional to connect with Christ. Otherwise we’re likely to be carried along by the current of everything around us, which often leads to frustration, anger, stress, tension with loved ones, and a general sense that we’re not making the most of life. That combined with the shocking truth that Christmas is (or should be) primarily about Christ, it can all leave us feeling less connected to Christ.

A short list of Advent resources 

Our family has done a few things over the years to try to be intentional during the advent season. Here are a few of those resources along with others that have been recommended to us:

  1. This year I am reading through the advent devotion Come Let Us Adore Him  by Paul Tripp. John Piper has also written a couple of advent devotions, both of which are downloadable as a free pdf. His latest, Good News of Great Joy, also has a podcast, where Piper reads each devotion.
  2. Colby and his family are going through the daily advent devotion The Songs Tell the StoryIn this book, Janet Denison tells the origin stories of 25 classic Christmas songs and hymns. There is also an accompanying playlist on spotify.
  3. Some years I have read through the very famous work, written about 318 AD, by the ancient church father Athanasius, called On the IncarnationAthanasius was known for his efforts to make sure the church understood that Jesus was both God and man. The book is short and excellent, with a fantastic foreword written by C.S. Lewis. I would usually read a page or two in the morning as a kind of daily devotion in the month of December.
  4. With our kids we’ve used various resources like these Advent Blocks, and my favorite (though no longer in print) is Adornaments. 
  5. As a church we look forward to our White Christmas service on December 18th, where we give food to help those in need.
  6. Many Life Groups gather to connect for Christmas, and our ladies meet to enjoy a wonderful Christmas brunch this Saturday.

Be still and know He is God

Josef Pieper said that being too busy “…is often a means of escape from oneself, of avoiding doing the hard work of the soul… only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear.” Whatever way your family builds up toward Christmas day, my prayer is that all of us at Valley View would be able to stay focused on Christ in December. I pray Valley View would stand out as a refuge from the normal pace of life, a place where we are intentional to make room to hear from Christ. Jesus, help us to “be still and know” that you are God (Ps 46:10) this Advent season. Help us to carve out the time to hear from you and become more dependent on you!

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