It’s that time of year again. What’s often called “the most wonderful time of year.” The time of year when we deck the halls, attend parties and plays, wrap presents, and bake cookies. It’s the Christmas season.
For believers, the Christmas season is a time of remembrance and celebration. It’s a time of rejoicing over God’s goodness and faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to redeem us from sin. It’s a time to dwell on what it means that our Savior was born to die.
Christians often refer to the weeks leading up to Christmas as “Advent.” The word “advent” means waiting. It’s a time of anticipation. Of expectation and preparation and looking forward to something hoped for.
The Christmas season is often hectic and filled with events, to-do lists, and expectations. All too often, we fail to sit and wait. We fail to do as Mary did when she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
For those who want to use the season of Advent as a time to draw near to God, to dwell on what it means that a holy God would take on human flesh and live among us, to remember God’s faithfulness to his promises, here are a few ideas.
1. Read through one of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Take the month to learn about Jesus, who he was and what he did.
2. Read through the Old Testament prophecies telling us who the Messiah would be. Some passages to start with are: Genesis 3:15, Deuteronomy 18:15-19, 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalm 22, Isaiah 7:14, 9:5-6, 52:13-53:12, Micah 5:2. Marvel at God’s faithfulness to keep his word.
3. Read a devotional specifically for Advent. There are many devotionals designed specifically for Advent with a devotional for every day during Advent season. A few I like are: Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper, and Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie.
4. Learn more about some of the Christmas hymns. Pick a few favorite hymns and learn more about what they mean, who wrote them, and why.
5. Study some of the names of Jesus. When the angel told Mary she would have a baby, he said she was to name him Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). What are some of the other names for him? What do they mean? What are their significance?
6. Consider the characters in the Christmas narrative. How many times have we sat and watched a Christmas play at church without really noticing and considering their roles? Take time this year to consider those characters and the parts they play. What do they have in common? What makes them different? How did God use them to carry out his plan? Consider Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah, the Shepherds, the wisemen, Herod, the angels, etc.
May this Advent season be one of sweet expectation as you dwell on who Christ is and what he came to do. And as you anticipate and prepare for this Advent, may it increase your longing for the second Advent to come—where we will at last see our Savior face to face.