WEEK 2 // DECEMBER 10 – 16
WEEK 1 // DECEMBER 3 – 9
Noel - Come and See What God Has Done
Advent is here and what an exciting time it really is. Over the next few weeks we will be posting devotion and prayer ideas for your families to gather and and reflect on Immanuel. Let's start with a little history on what Advent is and the Church Calendar.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH CALENDAR?
Practiced for over 1,500 years, the Church Calendar serves as a way to order our lives around the Christian story. Inspired by the annual feasts and celebrations of God’s people throughout the Old Testament, the calendar can be traced all the way back to the early Church, when Christians began establishing rhythms and rituals based on the one story of Scripture.
Despite its details and approaches changing over time and looking different across traditions, the Church Calendar has almost always hit the same plot points and themes with the seasons: Advent (the birth of Christ), Epiphany (the manifestation of Christ), Lent (the temptation and death of Christ), Easter (the resurrection of Christ) and Pentecost (the Spirit of Christ).
The Church Calendar can come across to many as legalistic or as empty ritual, given some of the abuses we’ve seen throughout Church history. It can also feel strange and foreign to those who are new to church or who grew up in churches that didn’t follow this calendar. But the seasons of the Church are really just a way to center our lives around the gospel by entering the story of Jesus each year. It’s a practical way to follow the words of Paul in Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” While we should always make sure we’re not falling into meaningless routines and simply going through the motions, it’s hard to think of a better way we can spend our time each and every year
The gatherings, the practices and the traditions of the seasons help us remember the one true story of the Bible—who God is and what He has done in Jesus Christ—and help us to live in that story every day as the people of God.
Advent In The Church
Of all the seasons, Advent probably feels the most familiar. Many people, regardless of faith, have used an Advent calendar—the ones with little windows to help you count down the days until Christmas. Yet, even though Advent is certainly about anticipating the coming of the Messiah, we don’t seem to be very good at it, and what we generally call “Advent” looks pretty different than what the Church historically has called “Advent.”
Formed from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival,” Advent is the traditional celebration of the first advent of Jesus in humility and the anxious awaiting of His second advent in glory. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting. In American Christianity, we’ve got that first part down. As soon as Thanksgiving is over (and sometimes even before), we start putting up the tree and listening to our favorite Christmas songs. There’s nothing wrong with doing these things, of course, but the whole point of Advent is to spend several weeks—four weeks, to be exact—preparing for Christmas instead of celebrating Christmas. It’s about stepping into the shoes of the Israelites, longing and crying out for the Messiah to come. It’s about reflecting on our sin and shortcomings and our need for a Savior. It’s about looking around at our broken world and hoping for the second coming of Jesus. And, once we get to Christmas Day, the celebration of Jesus’ birth becomes that much more spectacular and meaningful.
As we remember and enter this story, the coming of Jesus Christ, we deconstruct and deny the false stories that we find ourselves caught up in, especially those connected to our culture’s concept of Christmas—individualism and consumerism. Instead, we reconstruct and embrace the true story of the gospel in our lives, specifically the focuses and themes of Advent. We recognize the weight of sin personally, corporately and cosmically and why we need Jesus Christ, Immanuel, to dwell among us, restoring and reconciling creation back to the Father by the Spirit. Celebrating the Son of God coming as a gift, not to be served but to serve, we respond out of praise and gratitude, using this season to serve and to give to others.
HISTORY & TRADITIONS
The Advent season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues up to Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve in some contexts. There are a variety of ways to celebrate the season, depending on tradition and background. Many people use an Advent calendar, typically made up of 24 “windows” containing Scriptures, stories, poems or gifts, to count down the days until Christmas. As each window is opened and the final day draws closer, our expectation increases. This reminds us of the hopeful yet anxious waiting God’s people experienced as they longed for the promised Savior to come.
Another popular tradition is marking the progression of the season through an Advent wreath made up of five candles. This symbol is borrowed from the emphasis throughout Scripture of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World (Matt. 4:16; John 1:4-9; 8:12). Each week, a new candle is lit in anticipation of Christmas Eve. The last candle, called the Christ Candle, is lit on Christmas Eve to represent Jesus’ first advent. Through this theme of ever-increasing light penetrating the darkness, we see a picture of the gospel.
Regardless of the tradition, Advent is a significant time in the life of the Church. It’s an opportunity for believers to remember God’s promise to send One who would overcome sin and death forever. God promised a Savior, and He kept that promise perfectly
Check back in on Sunday for Week One devotions
I talked Sunday about posting some Advent resources to help our families celebrate Christmas this year.
I hope these will help:
Good News Of Great Joy - John Piper (Free PDF)
The Village Church Advent Guide
This Free PDF has devotions and even a weekly Advent candle devotion for the family each week.
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy - John Piper (Free PDF)
Advent candles are a great way to gather your family once a week over Christmas to pray, talk and remind yourself what this season is all about.
We normally add a white candle in the middle to light Christmas day.
Link to purchase Advent candles
Here is a link to an awesome Family Advent Candle Devotion to do each week:
And If You Are Still Bahumbugging....
Check out this movie:
This past Sunday we talked about the family once again and I spoke about finding out what matters most in your family. What is it that you want for your family? I gave a few of what I thought mattered in the Cox family and I wanted to share those again to maybe inspire you to sit down and write out 4 or 5 things that matter most to your family:
What Matters Most To The Cox Family:
1. Our kids have an authentic relationship with Abba Father
2. They know that neither their mom or I will ever stop pursuing or fighting for a right relationship with them.
3. That our relationship with God and with each other has a huge effect on our kids.
4. Just being together can never substitute for interacting together in a healthy way.
5. We know that we can not be the only adults involved with our kids so we will encourage healthy relationships with our families and church families.
All of these connect thru honest and valued relationships (Matters of the Heart).