Advent. Let’s all hold our breath. He is coming.
Welcome to my favorite time of year. The month of making memories and reflecting, the month of hope.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation…
The word “Advent” literally means “coming.” I try to imagine life for God’s people before Christ’s coming. Life in God’s perfect Garden where there is no death, no labor, no toil– into a life of death and sickness and sin. Swinging back and forth from following God to living in disobedience; from living in slavery in Egypt to wandering in the desert. Through good kings and evil kings, prophets and priests. Suddenly God’s people find themselves in silence for over 400 years. No word from their God for 400 years! Living in oppression and longing for someone to come, to rescue them and draw them into the light, lead them. Yearning for God to just speak. Then, suddenly, after 400 years, silence is broken. ‘Behold, your King is coming to you.’ Love coming down.
It changes everything.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Andy and I were just discussing how amazing this verse is. A few years ago, our favorite white birch tree got swarmed by Japanese beetles, and the entire tree died. By the next summer, nothing but a rotten stump was left. In time, we forgot about it. Then, at the next spring’s arrival, we discovered a small shoot emerging out of the dead stump. We weren’t sure this small stick growing from the dirt would survive, but now 3 years later it towers at 8 feet tall! Unexpected life from the death. In Ann Voskamp’s “Greatest Gift” Advent devotional, she says this:
Out of the stump of that fallen tree…..springs a singular shoot–tender and vulnerable. A shoot that bears witness to God–the hardly noticed child….Out of the last and forgotten son of Jesse comes forth one tender branch that will grow into a crown of thorns.
God could have chosen to send Christ in like a Redwood or a Sequoia–a giant unable to be ignored. It almost seems strange that, instead, He would choose to use a small sprout from a dead stump. So insignificant, so easily overlooked. Christ could have been born in the most elaborate castle in the most powerful kingdom, but rather we find Him in a barn. He turns things around. He lives in a way that points us, not to the grand things, but to the small, the lonely, the insignificant, the overlooked.
This time of year can drown us if we lose light of its meaning. It seems to be much easier to find ourselves in the hustle-bustle of shopping and planning and parties and programs than to slow ourselves and listen, to anticipate. We decided a few years ago that we wanted Advent to be a time of love, serving, and prayer in our family. We have to fight hard to protect this sacred time, and we don’t even come close to succeeding at it. But we don’t want to overlook the shoot coming forth. We want to see the King. We want His salvation to be the greatest gift.
Here are a few of the ways that we are slowing and seeking His coming this year:
- Advent Calendar…..I posted about this last year here. This is our most favorite family tradition, one I hope our kids still look forward to when they are teens!
- Advent Wreath- We haven’t done this for a few years, but the lighting of each candle on the 4 Sundays before Christmas is a great reminder that Jesus is the light of the world, and it is a beautiful way of focusing on the different parts of the Christmas story.
- Last year, I read through Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” devotional. This year, Andy and I are reading through it together. It is beautiful, and takes as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Ann has such talent in pointing her readers to Christ.
I would love to know, do you have any special Advent traditions?