A few days ago, I was stressing about Advent.
It seems like, everyone I love is talking about Advent. They’re asking us to pause and reflect, to invite Jesus in, and focus on the patience of the season. I’m loving this call for counter-cultural celebrating, so naturally, I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
But honestly, y’all, I feel like I can’t keep up. I can’t decide which way to go. Who should I read? What should I do? Before we even lit the first candle of Advent, I was suffering under the paralyzing tyranny of choice.
Here’s my worry: If I chose wrong then does that mean my kids will become grubby consumers who forget about Jesus all together? Will they grow up to be rabid Black Friday shopper who’ll shank the person in front of them for a holographic iPad? When they stand before the judge will they think back to Advent 2015 and say, “If only she did the Jesse Tree with me, Your Honor, I’d be a completely different person!”
I was completely mental about Advent until I had tea with a friend. I vented these Advent worries to her (leaving out the shanking- one does not discuss shanking fantasies to new friendsh until you’ve reached coffee date fifteen- even then it gets a little iffy) and the truest confession I’ve ever made spilled out.
“I’m just afraid of missing Jesus this season.” She studied me for a
moment and sighed in agreement, “yeah, me too.”
Isn’t that the point of this season? Jesus. Advent in all it’s good and fun and meaningful expressions is really just a season of daily invitations from Jesus to access the hope, love, joy, and peace that can only be found in His story. Jesus is the embodiment of the love of God. He is healing for the sick, acceptance for the lonely, and laughter for the one who mourns. Jesus is wholeness for every single broken person on
this earth. That’s what Advent is about. It’s a holy pause from the “shoulds” of the season to see that we are beloved just as we are. And for all their Jesus-centricty, the “shoulds” also includes all the amazing Advent activities we can dream up.
I forgot this and the crazy crept in.
When I got home, I sat with my to-do list of every single thing I wanted to try this season- the wreath, the readings from various devotional books, the following of Instagram feeds, the apps, the podcasts, the super cute Advent paper chains. Everything. Then, I asked myself, “what can I actually do?” “What feels right and what is a joyful acceptance of Jesus’ invitation?” Soon, this questioning
turned into a prayer, “Jesus, help me meet you this Advent.”
And from deep within the well of my soul, I felt a phrase bubble up. A mantra that makes its home in the sassiest place of my psyche. An anthem that’s both freeing and joyful every-time I say it…
Because I can’t say it any better, let’s rely on Urban
Dictionary’s wisdom for an accurate definition:
Yep, it’s that simple. Do what you feel is best for you and your family this Advent. I write this for me, for you, for the moms of the littles, for the mama new to Advent, and to every woman who wants to meet Jesus this season. Stop trying to do Ann, or Sarah, or Jerusalem, or SheReads, or Nouwen, or Bonhoffer, or Margaret any one else who is putting out GOOD, powerful important works this season and do you! Take what they’re offering and hold them in your hands with a discerning scale. What can you actually do?
The only problem with my own advice is I’m an ESFJ! I don’t like ambiguity. When someone says, “do you!” I hear, “do nothing.” I want nice little categories to help me figure out what to do.
So here: let me give you two categories of Advent
activities you can explore.
Good Words and Good Works.
I encourage you to try one from each category, but do it with a flexible attitude and a sense of humor. Trust me, y’all, Jesus is still our King, he’s still our Peace, and he still loves us something fierce- regardless of our Advent celebrating acumen.
You can craft your Advent around readings, devotionals, books, and
songs. My favorite books are:
Advent and Christmas by Henri Nouwen: Short daily readings with
scriptures and action steps. This is probably more for your personal
Advent study, but can be a good conversation starter at the table.
God is in the Manger: Reflection and Advent and Christmas by Deitrich
Bonhoeffer: I love his four themes of Advent: waiting, mystery,
redemption, and incarnation. Again, probably best for your personal
connection to Jesus during advent, but there’s some good, good
theology to be found here.
Sarah Bessey has poignant words this season for us. If you’re a blog
reader, then you might want to check her series out.
I’ve been listening to the Advent albums from “Future of Forestry” and
“The Brilliance”. Their arrangements of traditional advent songs are
gorgeous and I’m a sucker for rock and classical mixed together. For
my own personal Advent reflection, I’m going to Future of Forestry’s
concert here in LA, later this month. Here’s my Advent2015 Spotify playlist.
This year, I bought these Advent Joy Cards from Persimmon Press. I stopped by their table at Allume and fell in love with them. They’re beautiful and on the back there’s a little prompt based on the song,
“Joy to the World.”
Maybe you want to do some type of daily advent activity with the
family or for your community, like Jamielyn at, “I Heart NapTime”
Because this is a season where we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus,
God made flesh, then it’s important for my family to “do good”, not just talk about good during Advent. That’s why we’re preparing the pancake delivery for families stuck at home on Christmas morning. This will be the seventh year we’ve reached and asked if we can deliver
pancake mix and their favorite mix in on Christmas morning. We do
this before the kids open their gifts as a reminder that it’s better to give than receive. All month long while we plan, I send the kids little scrolls with Advent reminders of God’s generosity and on
Christmas morning, the families on the list, have scavenger hunt clues for the kids that make the giving a little bit fun. Now, this is my Advent practice for the kids and I’ll be writing through it this
month, but don’t get overwhelmed- if this seems too much, then…Do you,
An easy starting point for a good work is to make an Advent Wreath. I loved this Sorta Awesome podcast episode with Jerusalem Greer on Advent. She encourages us to start with what we have in our home to fashion an Advent wreath. There are only a few must-haves: four (or
five) candles, some greenery or something alive, and word of
reflection. You can follow the lectionary or simply sing, “Silent
Night” as you light the candle. Easy, easy.
I’ve asked the other Awesome on the Sorta Awesome to share their wreaths because I want you to see how these women are being true to their circumstance and personalities to do Advent.
(Ours is the one in the middle with shells we collected on the beach on Thanksgiving.)
Do an Advent Wreath, Mama, but Do You…DO YOU!
Another good work, I’m excited about when we put our tree up is a
chain of daily readings from the Jesus storybook Bible, some call this a, Hope Chain. We’ll have the chain on the tree for decoration. Every night before bed, the kids will break a link and we’ll do the reading. My daughter loves reading at bedtime so the agreement is she’s taking the lead in this, because I can’t manage another thing. Do you, Mama! Do you!
Here’s a collection of Advent chains with daily readings on the back to help you plan this fun craft for the family. (click the image to get to the printables)
I’m sure Pintrest has some other ideas, but as we’ve alreadydiscussed, I’m not interested in completely losing my stuff thisseason- so crafts are off the beam for me. Do you, Mama…do you!
If you’re a big Instagramer, you might want to try a daily photo challenge like, #PictureAdvent. When you sign up, the LEC will send you a daily theme. Then snap a pic, tag it, and count that as your daily Advent reflection. This
might be fun to do with your teen as a challenge.
I truly hope you try something out this Advent. It’s my favorite season, but if you can’t because your life is frantic or the thought of one more thing makes you break out in hives …take a deep breath, pour yourself a glass of wine, and resolve to do one thing…listen. To yourself and to the wooing of Jesus whose Advent hope is that you know how over the moon he is about you right now. Don’t let busyness rob you of your belovedness this Advent.
Then with all those warm fuzziness do one thing: Do you, Mama. Do you!
Shalom, and Slang, and Being True to Myself,