Advent is billed as a wonderful season for the family to celebrate. It can be, but it can also be anxiety-producing. It might add to the burden caused by expectations you have of what a “Christian” Christmas should look like. You may be working to break generational patterns and doing Christmas differently in your own family, so adding one more layer of effort during the holidays is counterproductive to feeling celebratory as well. The good news during this season is that the goal of Advent is to receive Jesus into our broken lives and look forward to the Day when He comes back to make the world perfect. When we feel the disconnect between the celebration of Advent and our hearts, it is an opportunity not to self-flagellate but rather to learn how Jesus wants to enter in with His gifts. It is important that your children watch this in your lives, for the time when they are grown and discover their own brokenness.
Let us press into God’s goodness to us and remember His grace is what brought Jesus into our world. It’s not our right practices or excellent theology. HIS GRACE will bring Jesus into our homes, but the trick is letting His grace into our hearts and minds as parents first. Can you trust that He wants to enter the dusty closets of your mind and bring in His light? That He wants to meet you in your disappointments and failures? That He longs to be close to you so you can reflect His gifts to your children? We ourselves are God’s children and need to remember this as we guide our children during Advent. There is much brokenness in our own lives that needs to see the Light of the World. This is the joy we can have in God’s provision for our families: His coming is for each of us.
As we enter this Advent season, let’s commit ourselves to inviting God to reveal the gifts of Advent to us as parents/adults so that we can truly guide our children toward them for themselves. Shed all the guilt of not having the “Hallmark” family and embrace the God who came in the most humble of wrappings: that of a helpless baby. The fact that Jesus came in this disarming form can remind us of the need to humbly receive help from God as we celebrate the season.
• Take time for prayer and honesty with God, especially when you feel extra pressure to adopt some new tradition or press on with old ones that simply don’t work…maybe it is time to stop and find real joy. Let His Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love seep into your dry and needy pores.
• Read an Advent devotional that resonates with real life (not unrealistic “Norman Rockwellish” ones) or simply read a Gospel and ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you for His birthday. (Preparing for Christmas by Richard Rohr;God is in the Manger by Deitrich Bonhoeffer; and Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri Nouwen, are a few suggestions.)
• The memory work for the children during Advent is Psalm 80:7, Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. Bring this up during the season with your family and ponder what comfort and hope it offers.
• Go on the offensive with the overwhelming number of choices for celebrating the season by trying on an Advent activity that you think you would enjoy with your family. Be gracious with yourself if it doesn’t “fit.” Laugh together as a family and commit to trying something new next year. If nothing else, you have modeled that it is important to you to bring Jesus into your home.
• Talk to a trusted friend or counselor when the disconnect becomes too great. Our sin-pocked lives are the road map to our need for Jesus. God longs to give us hope (not earthly perfection) as we face the places where we hurt.
• Most of all, allow Jesus into your real families, not the ones you wish you had. Use the disappointment to catapult you into Jesus’ presence and find the real Jesus of Christmas.
Wishing you and your family the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of Jesus this Advent season…even in the messiness of your real lives. God is with us – Emmanuel.