I was worried about discussing the holiday season while it’s still October. But then I was in Target and they were selling tiny ceramic Christmas trees in the Dollar Spot so I think we’re going to get through it (And, duh, I totally bought two).
So, here we go, let’s talk about Christmas in October and before you stop reading, hear me out: Christmas can be tricky. Some believers argue that Christmas has pagan roots so we should totally ignore it, some people have trouble with how much we’ve commercialized it, and even for those who love everything about Christmas (spoiler: me), we usually find ourselves on Christmas morning crying into our hot cocoa because we’re so burnt out and haggard by all the activities and pressures of the season.
With all these things in mind, I’ve been pondering how to make Christmas a bit more intentional since early January and now I’m so excited to officially tell you about “Advent with Into the Harvest” and why you should join us in observing Advent starting on November 29th.
We were made for Advent
First off, Advent literally means “arrival of a notable person,” so when we celebrate Advent we are celebrating the arrival of Jesus. I like that idea. Afterall, it's important to remember what God did by sending his son, as a baby, to the Earth to ultimately save us from our sins. And while, sure, we don’t really know when Jesus was born (Warning: if you go down that internet rabbit hole you’ll be gone a while.), I think it's still really important for us to take time to give Jesus’ birth a good long ponder.
As luck would have it, this past year I’ve been reading a Jewish Study Bible for my daily Bible reading. I’ve gotten to learn all about the feasts and festivals of the Jewish tradition. (Oh goodness, I’m going to have to be careful here not to go off on a tangent - because I’m currently super into this topic and could talk about it all day!) But one thing I’ve learned about God for all my nerdy studies, is starting way back, when He told his people to honor the Sabbath rest (or even before that when He himself rested after He created the world) God knew people well.
He knew how we learn, He knew how we best connect to Him. From the beginning with His first connections with His people, God knew we needed a time and a season for everything 1. We needed reminders in the form of feasts and festivals. Think about Passover for a second. God knew the people of Israel would need a yearly reminder of what God had done for them in rescuing them out of Egypt! He knew we’d need times of rest, times of celebrating. He knew we’d even need times of fasting and lamenting. The need for seasons isn’t just built into the natural world, but also into us as humankind.
Advent helps us focus on what Christmas should be
Understanding how God made us, has helped me see an even greater need for me to set aside a time each year to think about what God has done and will do. Christmas, specifically the celebration of Jesus’ birth, is the perfect time to celebrate His first coming and His second coming. The miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth, the promises that were fulfilled from prophecy long foretold, are all worthy of our time and energy each and every year. I promise they won’t get old!
Getting my own set of five large candles was one of the first truly “adult” things I did when I was in my early twenties. By that time I’d become jaded enough to know Christmas wasn’t about presents or that it would never be like the Hallmark Channel made it out to be, but my memories of lighting a candle each night during Advent (adding one candle each week until finally lighting the 5th candle on Christmas Eve), reading scripture and singing hymns in the dark room with just one or two candles lit - that was something that did stand the test of years and growing up!
The hustle, bustle and stress of the season seemed to fade away in the half-darkness of candle light. The familiar scriptures from Isaiah, Luke and all the other passages we would read and talk about seemed to hold extra holiness during the Christmas season.
Let's Gather Around the Candles Together
Now that I have my own children I am continuing the Advent tradition with them! Sure, right now they mostly care about who’s turn it is to blow out the candle each night - but I’m also confident that we are instilling, little by little, a deeper understanding of our faith. For now, presents are still at the top of their Christmas favorites, but with the Lord’s mercy, one day they’ll be buying their own sets of candles.
This year, I’d love to share Advent with our Into the Harvest community as well. If you would like to join in our daily advent readings (I promise they won’t be long!) we’d love for you to join our advent tradition! Sign up here and you can receive daily readings, links to videos with meditations and questions to further your study during this Christmas season, as well as some fun tidbits and traditions that our family has added over the years. Sign up today and tell all your friends! This is the perfect way to end 2020 on the highest of notes.