This devotional appeared first on Susan Cady’s blog, Get Real!
Tis the Season…
- for busyness and overwhelmed schedules packed with events
- for strained pocketbooks from all the shopping for just the right gifts
- for stressed and frazzled relationships gathering with relatives
- for the loneliness of facing Christmas alone this year
But is this how Christmas was truly meant to be experienced?
Advent means “the coming”. It’s a time of inward preparation for the commemoration of the coming of Christmas, a time to be still and remember the God of our past, present and future. It’s a time to celebrate His presence in the present and prepare for His second coming to earth.
Advent is a time to prepare for Christ’s coming by looking at our lives and seeing if there are habits, attitudes, or behaviors of which we need to repent. —Ann Hibbard
Fifteen years ago, the Lord really impressed upon me that I needed to take a look at my heart and what I was instilling in my children when it came to Christmas. My husband & I felt we needed to move our family toward a season more focused on celebrating Christ and generosity rather than “getting gifts”. I read a magazine article, where the author had incorporated the giving of three gifts in his family. They gave a gift of love (something special the person wanted), a gift of encouragement (a letter), and a gift of the heart (a handmade craft). Each person gave these three gifts to every other member of the family. (I’m sorry I don’t remember the magazine or the author. I wish I had kept the article and could credit this person. God used him in an amazing way to impact our lives.)
We chose to adopt this plan for our Christmas that year and it radically changed our Christmas then and for years to come (and continues to impact our lives and the lives of our grown children and their families). We did a make a slight change the second year. The making of a craft with each child (three kids times four crafts each!) made me crazy and stressed —the opposite of what we were going for. So the next year we swapped the craft for a gift of service and spiritual growth. Each of our children gave a gift of service. They each wrote out on notecards an act of service they would complete for the recipient at some point in the following year. We encouraged it to be something that would be meaningful to the other person and not just “easy” for the giver. My husband and I gave each of our children a gift of spiritual growth. It might have been a new devotional, a Bible, a journal, a new Veggie Tales or Adventure in Odyssey video, really just anything to encourage their walk with the Lord in the next year. We plan to continue with this attitude and mindset of giving with our grandchildren. And I have to say…I was concerned that the gift of encouragement (the letter) would be the least well received. I was wrong! The first year it was the gift our children wanted to open first and it has continued to be special part of our family Christmas, even as our children have married and left home. We have continued this letter exchange and added two children-in-love to our list of recipients. This year I’m so excited to be writing letters as a first-time Grandmama to our two granddaughters who were born earlier this year!
(15 years of Christmas Letters)
Each year since then, as the Christmas season approaches, I ask the Lord to examine my heart, my attitudes and my lifestyle and to make me more intentional and Christ-centered as I prepare for and celebrate Christmas. This year as I was praying, the Lord impressed upon me the words of Psalm 86:11-13:
Teach me Your way, Yahweh,
and I will live by Your truth.
Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.
I will praise You with all my heart, Lord my God,
and will honor Your name forever.
For Your faithful love for me is great,
and You deliver my life from the depths of Sheol.
—Psalm 86:11-13 (HCSB)
As I studied and prayed, it became an Advent study titled, ‘Tis the Season. I’d like to invite you to join us over the next several weeks as we seek to prepare our hearts and homes, now, in order to celebrate what’s truly important this Christmas season. Psalm 86:11-13 will be our guiding verses each week as we seek to cultivate hearts that honor and reflect Christ to those around us. We’ll get into God’s Word to prepare our hearts and share decorating and family time ideas for preparing our homes to experience Christmas anew this year. Let’s take time to stop, look, listen and celebrate Immanuel—God with us.
You can download a copy of the study here or pick up a copy in the Women’s Ministry office.