These are the Speaking Notes of a talk I shared with our moms group at church….I’ve adapted the notes some for a blog post. I felt like sharing it here. Not because it was particularly any great talk, but it did feel like they were words coming from my heart. Plus, I need to speak it all over again to myself today.
Advent is not just a countdown to Christmas, rather it is a time of heart tuning. A time to let the story hit us, wreck us, and build us up with hope anew.
Advent can include family, and candles, and wreaths, and a nativity scene. Or it can simply be one good conversation with someone. Or it can be sweet solitude and time spent in the Word of God and in prayer to God.
Advent can look different from year to year. But we are creatures of habit. We love to sit in the same places, and do things the same way….
Because of this, we need traditions that call us back, that help us remember. Our children need this too.
But this is not to put one more thing on your list of “to do’s” this Christmas. In fact I hope after reading this, your shoulders might feel a little lighter, with burdens lifted and hope renewed.
But I want to take some time this morning to tell you what your kids need from you this Christmas.
It is not a toy. It is not batteries for said toy. It is not a full stocking. It is not decorating cookies. It is not driving to see christmas lights. It is not lights on the outside of your home. It is not visiting Santa at the mall. It is not watching a Christmas movie or sipping hot cocoa. It is not sending out christmas cards with everyone at least in the frame. It is not new christmas pjs. It is not singing christmas carols. It is not even family devotion time.
What your kids need from you, and from me, is a heart that is totally devoted…head over heels, in love, and desperate for…Jesus.
Now, I know some of you may have anticipated that very “church-y” JESUS answer. And I am not saying that any of the above things are bad…absolutely not…and I hope that many of those things can happen for you and me and our families in a special way this year.
BUT let me just share, probably not without tears….a little bit of how I have come to a different kind of Advent season, and a different kind of Christmas. And then let me give you permission to do the same.
Six weeks ago we lost our baby boy at 20 weeks.
You can read the story HERE.
I am really still aching with grief.
I know a mama’s heart can absolutely imagine what it might be like to be in my shoes. Because you know what it is like to love a sweet little one, to bond with that little one even before you meet them. You know what it is like to let your heart prepare for a baby.
On this journey of grief it has helped me to write. I have filled pages and pages of my journal. When I get overwhelmed with emotion all I can do is just pick up a pencil and begin writing prayers to God. It has helped me to write for my blog too.
I wrote this a week or so ago…and it seems to share my heart best. It captures why Christmas is different this year and why Advent is personal this season.
And this is why HOPE is my word for this Advent season. And can I just tell you…Jesus has been near. And that doesn’t mean that I’m just walking around with my Jesus umbrella (like that red umbrella commercial) where I don’t get wet. No, I am one totally soaked, mess. But it does mean that the one who made the rain whispered in my ear that this is just a rainy season. And it will not be forever. It means that sitting out here in the rain has made my heart so tender to others who have walked through a dark rainy season. It means that I draw closer and closer to the consuming fire that every morning when my eyes pop open I whisper, I need you Lord.
And I won’t pray for more rain.
But I will praise God because he is here with me in this rain, Emmanuel.
And maybe I should use the snow metaphor…that would have been way more Christmas-y….
But what I want to share with you about Advent is this….
You have a savior who came down to you.
I love how the book of John begins:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…
(verse 14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And that is Christmas right there:
1. Word became flesh
The word who was God took on humanity. “This is the most amazing event in all of history; the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely holy Son of God took on a human nature and lived among humanity as one who was both God and man at the same time, in one person.”
2. Dwelt among us
This means literally “pitched his tent” which is an allusion to how he dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle but now he dwells with us through the incarnate word, Jesus Christ both in the Church and in our bodies.
3. We have seen his glory
Christmas is the tangible and concrete expression of God’s glory.
4. Glory of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor that brings blessing and joy but this most likely refers to the Hebrew steadfast love and faithfulness…so the expression connects to God’s covenant faithfulness found in Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT covenant. (These are quotes and paraphrases from the ESV Study Bible.)
I also love The Message interpretation of verse 14:
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
And it is this same Jesus that comes into our Christmas right here, right now. He moves into our neighborhood, our homes, our hearts.
And let me just tell you…sometimes Christmas can seem all fluffy and happy and singing…which is great…again…love it! But my husband said this last Sunday to a group of middle schoolers, and it blew my mind really. He said:
Christmas is like D-day. Christmas was a full on launched attack…a rescue mission…for YOU. Let that sink in.
And just like D-day, Christmas came with a lot of carnage. Little boy babies killed because of orders from an evil Herod. We skip over that Christmas story, don’t we? And we must always remember that this baby boy, the beautiful tiny infant Christ, came to die on a horrible Roman cross. Christmas is not cute, or fluffy. It is very real.
So if this Christmas you don’t feel very cute, or fluffy, or like singing loud for all to hear. Take hope. Because you don’t have to be like the presents wrapped all pretty with a bow on the outside. In fact, the people in your life need you to be one thing. In love with Jesus.
Christmas is not about a feeling we conjure up. It is a reality of grace given to you. It is seeing his glory. It is letting the light shine in and through us to our family and our community. In Bethlehem, all those years ago, GOD brought Christmas. God wrapped himself in flesh and dwelt among us. This Christmas, WE bring Christmas, as Jesus dwells in us we can be full of grace and truth as well. My heart truly wants my kids to know this Jesus–full of grace and truth–this Christmas. And there is nothing I can do to “save” my kids. Only God can do that. But there is a whole lot I can do to show them the reality of my own Savior. And to love them out of that overflow of love given me.
So. What do your kids need this Christmas?
They need a mama who like Mary, takes time to ponder all these things in her heart. They need a mama who daily seeks the heart of God, a mama who Trusts in the Lord with all her heart and leans not on her own understanding but in all her ways acknowledges Him to make her paths straight. They need a mama who receives grace for each day, a mama who refuses to carry burdens that are not hers to carry. Your kids need a mama who with strength and dignity can laugh at the times to come. They need a mama who asks for forgiveness and forgives as Christ has forgiven her. They need a mama who starts her day by whispering, Lord I Need You, Oh I Need You
And God will give.
He already gave the gift of his only Son.
He has paid your price. Hallelujah!
And we can breathe a little deeper and laugh a little louder this Christmas because we have all we need in him. It is out of this overflow of deep love for Jesus that we can even begin to meet the needs of our children.
So let us connect our time of Advent to the person of Jesus dwelling among us this Christmas and may that overflow to those in our care.