This is my favorite time of year: Thanksgiving…that leads to celebrating the Advent of Jesus Christ. Each December I set aside time to celebrate every part of the story that lead to the birth of our Savior….savoring each moment, studying each character.
When my husband I first married, one of the cultural differences we noticed early on was how we traditionally celebrated Christmas.
He grew up in the former Yugoslavia – far from the Currier & Ives, Hollywood style, millions of lights and huge yard sets-style Christmas I was used to.
My parents drag out about a half-dozen boxes bulging with everything from evergreen garland, wreathes and outdoor lights to 40+ years of accumulated tree ornaments, wall hangings, candles and nick-knacks.
The walls resound with Burl Ives’ “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and Bing Crosby’s crooning voice dreaming of a white Christmas. The house is a Christmas wonderland. As a kid I sometimes wondered if I was at the North Pole (except I grew up in the rainy northwest where we rarely ever saw snow.)
Fast-forward some 30-odd years, and I am now in Croatia. While Christmas is quickly beginning to resemble what they’ve always seen in American films, it still doesn’t always translate over into people’s homes.
I really struggled with this a lot the first few years of our marriage, because I felt the absence of my childhood traditions so keenly. And my efforts to recreate those traditions stressed me out. A lot.
Couple that with the fact that my husband’s job threatens to keep him away from home on Christmas Eve night or Christmas Day – which is often a reality and I am forced to finally do what I learned early on in our marriage – surrender an ideal that really wasn’t very important.
What is important is peace in my home, peace in my heart, and a family that knows the real reason why we celebrate Christmas.
Christmas isn’t about family.
Christmas isn’t about magical feelings.
Christmas isn’t about childhood wonder at the lights and shiny decorations.
Christmas is about Jesus’ first coming to earth, born as a child but fully God in the flesh with a mission to redeem mankind from their sin.
And so often the pretty lights and shiny trinkets, the earthy scent of a fresh-cut tree, and the myriads of gifts filled with things we don’t need…the romantic Hallmark films that propagate an idea that doesn’t closely resemble the truth, and all of those trappings that are not necessarily bad, tend to distract us from the real reason why blood-bought Christians, saved and sanctified, filled with Spirit of God choose to commemorate this important date that truly marks one of the two most significant dates in the history mankind!
A few years ago, I participated in my first-ever Advent study for the Christmas season, and in light of the fact that our Christmas was literally turned on its head, it was truly significant because it focused my heart and emotions where they needed to be!
It wasn’t so important that we had to move our celebrations to another day of the week – because Christmas isn’t a day, it is an event to be celebrated and can be celebrated on any day of the year!
If you are struggling, much as I was, I hope you find the following list helpful to you.
5 Advent Studies and Journals For the Whole Family
Women Living Well offers a free Advent study online that includes a free devotional book, reading plan, and even meaningful activities to do as a family to make the season a blessing for the whole family. Plus, she offers a children’s manual that has daily advent ideas for your kids!
Find the Advent Study – Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus Here
Oh Amanda offers this advent study that is more than just a devotional for the whole family, it is an experience. With this book, you will receive 24 days of scripture readings, craft ideas, free templates and ornament printables and more.
If you have small children, this is exactly what you need to make the Christmas season extra-special, and packed with lots of meaning for them!
3. Quieting Your Heart for the Holidays 30 Day Prayer Journal
I love this devotional by Darlene from Time Warp Wife. This is one I plan to do over and over. Not only can you get this beautiful prayer journal with lovely graphics throughout, she has blog posts and more free printable material on her blog to go with it.
4. The Women of Christmas Online Bible Study
The Women of Christmas is a beautiful 25-day Bible study written by Mandy Kelly from Worshipful Living, who has been with Jesus since March of 2017.
Her mom Rhonda Kelly is now writing at Worshipful Living, so Mandy’s legacy lives on in her blog posts and the wonderful studies she wrote.
In this 25-day study, you will learn about all of the women who surround the Christmas story, starting from the beautiful women in Jesus’ lineage through the women surrounding His birth.
You can find The Women of Christmas here
I loved putting these together, springing from my own study of the Christmas story – starting from Old Testament prophecy through the event of Christ’s birth.
You can use these separately or together. You can even use these as companion resources with any of the Advent studies above or another study of your choosing.
The War Room Journal Prompts give you 15 prayer prompts through the characters, symbols, and hymns of Christmas for quiet reflection on Jesus and His birth.
The 30 Day Prayer Challenge for Christmas walks you through 30 passages of Scripture from prophecy through the event of Christ’s birth.
You can learn more about the War Room Journal Prompts here.
You can learn more about the 30 Day Prayer Challenge for Christmas here.
I pray that this Christmas will be life changing for you, as you look past all of the glitter to the birth of our Savior in circumstances that were anything but romantic, cozy or lovely.
Dear reader: do you have a special devotional or book that you like to read for Advent? Is there a favorite Bible Study that you enjoy doing? Please take a moment and share it with us below!