This December, Celebrate the Christmas Season, Not Just Christmas

Why our family is celebrating Advent this year.

by Ed Stetzer

This weekend, we put up the Christmas lights, started decorating the tree, and then sang Christmas songs at church.

Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—which, for many of us, feels like a rush into chaos.

Between all the gift giving, cookie baking, and party hosting, it can be difficult to find time to breathe, let alone reflect. Our consumeristic culture returns each year in full swing, doing all it can to dazzle and distract us; believe me, this Christmas season won’t be any different.

Believers sport bumper stickers and coffee mugs with the saying ‘Jesus is the reason for the season,’ but do we really mean it? Would Christmas be just as joy-filled even if Santa and his sleigh were taken out of the picture?

Part of celebrating Advent is slowing down and letting our hearts and minds be reoriented around the coming of Christ. This season is a celebration of many things, but mostly—powerfully—it’s a celebration of a baby boy born 2,000 years ago in the tiny town of Bethlehem. He is Jesus: the long-awaited Messiah. He spent his days on earth healing the sick, speaking life to the hurting, and bringing sight to the blind.

But it didn’t just end there.

In the greatest act of love this world has ever seen, Jesus gave up his life for the redemption of humankind.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want to celebrate this Christmas—a gift much greater than the latest department store gadgets and gizmos. In light of this, here are some ways that I’ve found to make the Advent season more meaningful.

First, learn to live and lean into the moment. The Advent season isn’t just for Anglicans, Baptists, or Pentecostals—it’s for all believers in every time and place. Right now as a church, we come together in celebration of a particular moment in history—a night that, in many respects, changed everything.

In his book Hidden Christmas, Tim Keller tells us that Christmas “is not just about a birth but about a coming.” God in the flesh made his home in our midst, and in doing so flew right in the face of our expectation that he was somehow distant or disinterested.

During this time of Advent, we remember Christ’s coming and long to express gratitude for all that he’s done and live in joyful expectation for all that he has yet to do. We want to feel the excitement of the magi and experience the nervousness of the virgin Mary as she held baby Jesus in her arms for the first time. We don’t want historical or cultural context to prevent us from experiencing the wonder of earth’s first Christmas.

To do this in my home this year, we’re going through Ann Voskamp’s interactive Advent celebration called The Wonder of the Greatest Gift together as a family. It’s been a helpful way for our family to slow down, take a step back, and recognize the deep meaning behind the Christmas tradition.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today: “The Exchange”