From my youngest years, I vividly recall the preparation of Christmas in our home. An advent calendar hung, and I couldn’t wait to open the windows of each calendar day to reveal the next part of the Bible’s Christmas story. Setting up the nativity scene in front of the tree was my “job” and I remember meticulously putting each ceramic piece in its place. Trimming the tree and Christmas concerts. Festive parties. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. And the presents! As a child, the anticipation of it all was so intense I could burst! I know that Christmas may not have looked like that for everyone. But we all have experienced seasons of anticipation. The waiting for something exciting, or even something desperately needed.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Israelites were waiting for something exciting and desperately needed too. And when the long-awaited news finally came, it came to a bunch of shepherds who were busy tending to their sheep.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. – Luke 2:11-16, emphasis mine
“Advent” is derived from the Latin word, adventus, meaning “arrival” or “coming”, and it is set aside as a period of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Anyone feel like we’re awaiting a rescue these days? I know I personally feel this more than ever. The anticipation of Christmas once felt has been replaced by a desperate need for hope, joy, and unity. But for the Israelites, the rescue came as a baby. This baby did not crash into the world as expected. Those who were awaiting the Messiah had to go to Him. The shepherds ‘hurried off’ to see the baby, and the Magi, they traveled far from the East:
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. – Matthew 2:9-11
These shepherds and wise men carry quite a bit of meaning. As men in the flesh, the shepherds and scholarly kings confirmed ancient prophecies about Jesus being the Messiah. Symbolically, they showed that He came to save all people – shepherds and kings alike. These shepherds and kings were both obedient and wise. Wise people acknowledge their need for a Savior and pursue Him.
I find myself drawn to these shepherds and kings this Advent season. Recognizing that our Savior is here, I want to pursue Him with the same urgency and vigor they did. I want to bow down at His feet. I want to spiritually prepare for the celebration of Jesus this Christmas.
Here are five ways that I am being intentional, and preparing and seeking to find Jesus this Christmas season:
- Taking the time for Advent Devotion.
Just a few minutes each day in my Advent devotion gives me an opportunity to lament the reason we needed a Savior to come in the first place, why I need a Savior now, and to remember God’s faithfulness to me (1 John 4:14). The devotional I am doing is entitled “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus” by Asheritah Ciuciu, but there are many out there that are wonderful for both personal devotion and to do as a family.
- Recognizing that what I am consuming is consuming me.
While this device that I have in my hands can get me just about anywhere I need to go, it is not my field guide. My field guide, my truth, is the Bible. And regular consumption of that is the healthiest choice I can make for myself not only this Advent season, but throughout the year (Matthew 6:33).
- Counting my blessings.
A close friend and I recently came to the realization together that many of our conversations of late have centered around complaining. Truth be told, things have been rough these past 18 months, but we have a choice about our posture. We can choose to focus on the struggles or the blessings. And we’re holding each other accountable to focus on the blessings (Philippians 4:8). To kick start, I am keeping a running list in my journal of the things for which I have to be thankful.
- Anticipating GOOD.
During this long season of struggle, I have become afraid of anticipating good, expecting that at any moment, something bad might happen. Anyone with me here? Afraid to be excited about what’s to come because I don’t want to be disappointed if it gets derailed. Well, Jesus doesn’t EVER get derailed, so regardless of how things go in this world, I can be assured that Jesus will not change. (Hebrews 13:8) I can also be assured that I have an eternity of GOOD to look forward to, and as the Lord gives us glimpses of that here on earth, it is only assured in with Him in Heaven.
- Knowing that Being Present is a Present.
For those of us with children, we know that being present for them is so important. And this year, with a high school senior in the house, I am keenly aware of the passing time and fewer hours I have to spend with our boys. We only have love for others because God loved us first. (1 John 4:19) Making time for them, as well as for my husband, extended family, and friends is way more meaningful than making time for the house to be perfectly Christmas-ready.
Can you just imagine how the Shepherds and Wise men felt when the encountered Jesus for the first time? The elation! The relief! And we can meet Him each day. And we don’t have to travel miles. He is here with us. You can read that in Joshua 1:9 and throughout the entire Bible.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6
Please pray with me:
Lord, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus. Thank You for Your presence that I so desperately need in a world that so desperately needs You. I ask that this Advent season, You prepare my heart each day to meet You with anticipation and elation. Help me to fix my eyes on You and to clearly see You. I pray these things in the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.