This Sunday, December 3rd, is the beginning of the Advent season, where many in the global Church take time to reflect upon and anticipate the majesty of the Incarnation. This season is already one that lends itself to a frenetic pace, and while we are always called to set our minds on Christ, the Christmas season can be one of the more difficult times to pause, reflect, rest, and worship.
I wanted to point you to some resources that may be helpful, as well as encourage you to list your own resources in the comments below.
Seasons Guide – The Village Church has an excellent resource that not only walks you through Advent, but other major seasons of the liturgical calendar. It includes scripture passages, hymns, a devotional, and a guided prayer. This resource can be found here.
The Jesus Storybook Bible – The JSB has long been a favorite in our household, and I know that many of you enjoy it as well. Since many advent guides can be daunting for a family to walk through without adding stress, we make it a point to at least read the first 24 chapters of the JSB, as they lead up perfectly to the birth of Christ. However, Sally Lloyd-Jones, the author of the JSB, also has produced a guide that comes with ornaments, downloads, and a reading guide. It can be downloaded here.
Jesse Tree – One tradition that has served our family well is a Jesse Tree (named after Is. 11:1 – “”uc”>There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit”. The point of a Jesse tree is to walk through the narrative of the Old Testament and look forward in anticipation to the coming of the Christ. This is done by reading passages in the OT and creating/printing out ornaments that symbolize that story. These are placed each day on small Christmas tree in your house (we’ve had a felt tree on the wall before). There are a myriad of resources on Jesse Trees, so I will not link to a specific one. This year, we are combining this with the JSB to use those stories as our Jesse Tree themes.
Men of the City Podcast – Last year, a handful of men from our church (The City Church – Fort Worth) got together to discuss Advent traditions in our own house, and many great ideas were given. You can find that on the Resource page on the website or directly here.
Hymns – Christmas music is certainly a polarizing topic. Hearing “Santa Baby” without warning can easily cause me to sin. Songs either cause an eyeroll or a heart to soar. Everyone has their tastes, but I would encourage you to seek our great Christmas hymns. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” (Matt Maher does an excellent version) and “O’ Rest Ye Merry Genlemen” are favorites of mine. However, my go-to Christmas music for the past decade or so has been “Behold the Lamb of God” by Andrew Peterson.
Read-Alouds – One of the simplest things that you can do as a family to settle hearts and draw near together is to have books that you read aloud together. We have several that we enjoy. These include: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Jotham’s Journey, Babushka,,The Christmas Fox, The Tale of the Three Trees (an Easter favorite as well), and Room for a Little One (among others – see Read Aloud Revival or just see my wife.
With all of this said, seek the Lord to find something that works for you and your family. We’ve had years that we felt weight and pressure to be uber-spiritual because it is Christmas time, and we got to Christmas Day feeling dry, hollow, and hurried. Seek God’s grace and choose resources and activities of reflection that bring you to worship. Fight the urge to be Pinterest-y and instead seek to just be faithful. As always, we come to God empty handed and He is the One who fills us up.
What do you do to stir your heart to worship during the Advent season? If you have links, please feel free to share them!