For the Christian world, the season of Advent began this past Sunday. A time of waiting and preparing for the birth of the Christ Child, Advent is often trampled on by the consumerism of Christmas shopping, spending more and more to show love for friends and families. Christians forget to stop and read the Christmas story, or their eyes glaze over when the pastor starts talking about peace, love, hope, and joy. Yet this is the time time when Christians are supposed to be preparing their hearts and minds and homes for Jesus Christ, and while it can be incredibly difficult to push back against the consumer culture of the United States, it is possible. And it’s rewarding.
Many American Christians experienced the Advent Calendar, the box with 25 doors hiding chocolate or little treats, one for each day of Advent. My family did Advent calendars for years, but they never meant anything more than Christmas was coming and I got chocolate every single day. Maybe it’s time to rethink Advent Calendars. Instead of some material treat, some little gift, maybe each day offers up a scripture or and action. Sure, it’s not a piece of chocolate (and somehow, those generic chocolates taste so good in December), but Christmas isn’t about chocolate. It’s about the incarnation. It’s about God working through a little family, a bunch of shepherds, and some wise men. It’s about God working through us to give more and love more, spending less time in the mall and more time in prayer and reflection.
Need some inspiration? Here are some things you can do this Advent season.
- Bake cookies with someone you love.
- Instead of writing a letter to Santa (or making a list of the gifts we want this year), make a list of all the things you want to give this December. They don’t all have to be material – some of the best gifts aren’t things we can attach a dollar value to.
- Serve a meal at a local soup kitchen or volunteer at a food bank.
- Spend 10 minutes in silence, offering prayers of patience.
- Watch a Christmas movie – my personal favorite is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” featuring Hermey the Elf.
- Listen to Christmas music while you read or cook or clean the house. Pandora Radio has hundreds of free stations with every kind of holiday music you can think of.
- Re-read the Christmas story and see what sticks out to you. You can find two versions in the Bible: Matthew 1:18-2:12 and Luke 2:1-20.
Let’s rethink Advent together.