How do you prepare for Christmas? Do you put up Christmas lights indoors or outdoors, decorate your apartment or house, cut down a Christmas tree to bring it home, or buy presents for family and friends? Are there certain traditions you return to each year that help you get in the mindset of what Christmas is all about?
One traditional song begins with these words: “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…’tis the season to be jolly.” ‘Tis the season…the appropriate time for joy and celebration. But we all know how quickly we can lose focus. Caught up in the rush of the season, losing our bearings in Christmas concerts, holiday parties, online or in-person shopping, and so much more, we forget why we are doing it all.
We’ve all likely heard someone say or read a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” This is so very true, but can feel so very trite. Yes, we celebrate Jesus’ birth as a monumental marker in human history and the centerpiece of God’s salvation story. Jesus is the reason for our season of joy and celebration. But hopefully we know the Gospel story of Jesus’ birth has a depth and richness far greater than cute phraseology or bumper sticker theology. As seekers and disciples, we want to get inside that richness and depth. Like finding a vast and thrilling new territory, we want to step inside and explore the why of Jesus’ incarnation. ‘Tis the reason…the significant meaning behind our joy and celebration.
Advent is the season before Christmas that helps us do just that. Coming from the Latin word adventus (“appearing”), Advent gifts us with four weeks to explore the expanse of the reason for the season. In Advent we look back with wonder at Jesus’ birth roughly 2,000 years ago. We also enter into the history of the chosen people, Israel, whose prophets anticipated Jesus’ birth in the messages. Simultaneously, we stand as the new chosen people, looking forward to Jesus’ future return at the end of human history.
This year, instead of looking at the typical infancy narratives, our Advent journey will uniquely take us through the middle of the Gospel of Matthew. There, we see Jesus turning toward Jerusalem while offering hints about and glimpses into the reason he has come as Messiah. His suffering will bring peace, His glory will bring joy, His healing will come to those with faith, and His resurrection will bring hope.
You can join in the Advent journey through a daily devotional from Eastbrook Church as a downloadable PDF, online, or through the Eastbrook app. This devotional can be used individually, in groups, with friends, or with your family as a tool for the Advent exploration of the reason for Jesus’ incarnation.
So, let me invite you to step into this new and glorious territory, exploring it through the four weeks of Advent. May we have a fresh encounter with Jesus through Advent on our way to the celebration of Christmas.