Amy, thanks for sharing with the ACR on the topic of Advent. Why do you consider this an important season to mark in our homes as well as our churches?
Advent serves as a reminder to us and those around us of our Saviour’s birth, without which we would not have the hope and security of salvation. In the lead up to Christmas, we have a time to reflect, prepare, wait, rejoice, and celebrate. We essentially are getting ready for the most important birthday party of the year.
Throughout your life, what are some of the best things you have done to help you keep your eyes on Jesus in an otherwise very distracting season?
I first need to admit that I so easily get distracted. So, one thing I must do is pray before I try to start preparing for Advent. I try to pray for myself, my husband, and my children. I can’t really encourage my children to focus on the real reason for Christmas if I am not also trying myself.
In addition to prayer, I find Advent devotionals to be great preparation tools. I came across my first Advent devotional twelve years ago at our church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church produced its own devotional for 24 days in the lead up to Christmas. I would read a short passage and reflection each day that would help me to prepare for Christmas. I found it to be such a refreshing thing for my own spiritual growth, as I had always found the Christmas season very distracting.
I love that we go to church on Christmas Day in Australia. This was not normal for us when we lived in America, as many churches there do not hold services on Christmas day (even when it is a Sunday!). In the middle of the Christmas Day craziness of gifts and calls to family, meeting with God’s people gives us a chance to pause, reflect, and be thankful for Jesus on Christmas Day.
What are some really fun ideas to help us encourage our kids in this season? What are some of the ways adults, especially those without kids, can lift their eyes to consider Christ this Christmas?
We try to do a daily Advent devotional with our kids starting on 1st December. My dear friend Joc Loane put me on to the book Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes and in this book there is a chapter on Advent and the importance of fixing your eyes on Christ and helping your children do the same. It goes through the whole Christmas story, from the beginning when God created the world, right up to the birth of Jesus.
The book recommends the Jesse Tree Devotional to help remind families of God’s wise and loving plan, and to cause them to marvel at the blessing of salvation. I started this for my children, but in the end it has benefited the adults as much as the children. I would highly recommend everyone doing this—married or not, if you have children or not. This simple tradition grounds us in Scripture, and provides tangible reminders—ornaments to hang each day on a tree—to go with the story of our promised Saviour coming to the world.
Whatever you do, the key is finding an active way to prepare for Christmas. We want to be eagerly awaiting Jesus’ arrival, not just looking back to the first Christmas, but also longing for him to come again.
I’ve had Christian friends who have asked, “Why make a fuss about Christmas? It’s so commercialised. Shouldn’t we celebrate Jesus coming into the world every day?”
Yes! We should definitely celebrate Jesus every day, but most days we don’t. At least we don’t think specifically on the truths that Christmas represents. For me, Christmas and participating in Advent is a great opportunity to get focused: to pause, reflect, and remember Jesus’s birth. We love celebrating people’s birthdays. Why would we not celebrate the best and most meaningful birthday of all time? His birth means so much for our salvation story.
This season also provides a very natural opportunity to talk to our friends or neighbours about the significance of the season. Last year we had a great conversation about Christmas when a lady was passing by our house while we were hanging up Christmas lights. Even some of the more commercialised activities our society does still can offer ways to talk about why Christmas is deeply meaningful. We should be prayerful in this season asking God to give us these opportunities to share the Christmas story with our friends and family.
Is there anywhere in Scripture that you’ve been encouraged to form these traditions?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a great encouragement to keep celebrating Christmas:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk to them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on your doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This passage really helps me when I’m thinking about Christmas. I am to take time to love the Lord with my whole being and I want to take every opportunity to teach my kids about God’s good and faithful promises. It’s good and helpful to have tangible expressions of my family celebrating Jesus by hanging decorations or signing Christmas carols.
Having grown up in the States, do you find Australia easier or more difficult in this season?
I used to think that being a Christian in America was more difficult because of the commercialisation of the holiday. But the longer that I have lived in Australia I realise that Australians have their own challenges during the Christmas season. In particular, I find life in Australia very busy at the end of the year. Schools are finishing, summer has begun, people feel the urgency to get together, lots of Christmas parties and other activities are happening. So, while things may be slightly less commercial, the extra busy year end can be equally distracting. This has been a reason for me to seek to be all the more disciplined in marking the Advent season, so that little by little each day, and especially each Sunday, I can fix my eyes on King Jesus and celebrate Him, the greatest gift the world has ever known.