Creating a plan for your family to celebrate Christ will help you focus on the big picture instead of getting lost in the details, but sometimes the best intentions and carefully crafted schedules are derailed in the sensory overload of the Christmas season. Have you ever baked, hosted, and gifted away the month of December, only to resolve that next year you’ll set aside time for a Bible reading plan? Do you ever pause in the middle of the month to ask if its even worth starting to read for advent? I wish I could send a letter to each of you reading this post to tell you how much I want the best for you. I would hate for us all to crumble under the pressure of entertaining and meeting others’ well meaning expectations and hoping – just wishing – for some kind of rest. I want to bring you good news, my friends.
There is a profound peace that is already yours to keep. As you run to the grocery store for the thousandth time because you forgot milk every single time, there is a peace that transcends this present frustration. As your kids point out all the toys at Target, and you can’t even afford to contribute to your family’s Christmas dinner, there is an even better, richer inheritance written for all eternity in your name. When the thought of Christmas cheer makes you weep because you had beloved traditions with someone no longer here to share them, climb into the refuge of your Father in heaven because you’ve been afforded the greatest intimacy in His arms. When your marriage or family is broken, and bitterness is creeping at the doorstep of your heart, look to the firm grip of God who promises that you are not strong enough to escape His grasp.
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
I’m talking about the good news for children of God. Once enemies of God, now children with an inheritance that nothing on earth or in the heavens can touch. The peace, the rich inheritance, the refuge, the intimacy, the love that will never let you go – this is Jesus. This is why we come back to his life, death and resurrection in every part of life. Children of God who experience the benefits of His care receive this because of what Jesus has done and is doing. They confess that they are broken people, corrupted with sin living a life that leads to death. They hear that the King of all that is good and holy has made a sacrifice to bring them back into good standing. They believe that Jesus is the perfect Son of God, born like us to represent our humanity before God, dying in our place to pay the price of sin because a just and set apart God cannot live in communion with the darkness of sin and death. And they trust that on the cross, Jesus took on the wrath of God that they deserved, and they weep. And they look at their neighbor and they say because of my Jesus I am free. Who am I to want anything less than this closeness with God for you?
These are the beliefs of God’s broken people, standing with only Jesus’ good works to claim, desperately wanting more and more of their God.
This is not to say that children of God will not endure pain this season, or to say that God’s people will be the epitome of joy (i.e. in the crowds at the mall). The believer is already called righteous before God and receives the reward of being disciplined for the sake of righteousness on this earth as well as the purposefulness of making more followers, but they are not yet free from experiencing the destruction of a broken world due to their sin and the sins of others. We often experience “identity amnesia” even during the Christmas season, forgetting that we are God’s, bought with a price and made to worship God instead of ourselves. Bringing a light into the darkness includes the continual remembrance of who I am in Christ’s covering, and how I will live because of this.
So here’s how to plan for Christmas:
Do whatever it takes to remember how you were saved. Do whatever is necessary, at any cost, to find your joy in Jesus. Right now, exactly where you are. There is no “Next year, I will…” because what you have is this present time and what you do with it will change the course of the Christmas season for you and your family. Here are some ways you can change the temperature of your heart and your household this season:
- Use the free resources your church has provided for you. Download and print the advent guide, and do the same with the Family Worship Guide on our Kids’ Ministry page. Without worrying about the follow through, just start it.
- Listen to podcasts that stir your heart toward affections for God. Desiring God, by John Piper, has an advent series that releases new episodes every day. Podcasts are great for running errands and long commutes.
- Create a playlist with hymns about Jesus. Andrew and the worship team have a Spotify playlist with songs that we’re singing on Sundays like Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.
- Be purposeful with dinner. Not everyone has the luxury of being home during the dinner hour for their family every night, but you know your own schedule and you have the ability to adapt. Be rebellious toward the busyness of the season by inviting friends, widows and families who are new in town over for dinner or coffee. Do a potluck style meal if the financial hardship is holding you back. And if hospitality scares you, go to natashared.com and study the ministry of humbly adding more chairs to your table.
- There are so many great blogs and books for making the advent season purposeful for parents with young children. Friend, I will even print them for you to pick up on Sundays. Some advent ideas will be waiting for you to pick up at the Nursery’s door every week leading up to Christmas. Or you can find what you like here:
- Baby Devotions
- Tiny Theologians
- Play Through the Bible
- Bake Through the Bible (Christmas Edition)
- Risen Motherhood
If you have any special traditions for worshipping and delighting in Jesus, would you send them to us? We’d like to share these ideas with our Redeemer families.
My last word in hope of encouragement to you is that I pray you will just keep going. If you hate skipping a day in your advent reading and as a result you stop reading all together, stop thinking about where you are on the reading track and go back to the the reason why you started: remember how you were saved. Then pick up your Bible and read again. The wonder of this glorious salvation sparked your reading, your hospitality, your joy, your peace, it brought you intimacy with God and made your days sweeter though you live in this broken world. Live in the present with this good news in your hands, and ask the question, “With this gospel, how will I live today?”
This is my wish for you, Redeemer Church families and any new friends reading this. If the hope of Jesus is new to you, please join us for our worship gathering this Sunday at Redeemer Church (8:00, 9:30 and 11:15) so that we can invite you into the meaning of “rest” this holiday season.
By Laurèn Heffner, Kids Ministry Director at Redeemer Church