Preparing our hearts through Advent readings is one of many ways my husband and I attempt to show our children, and the watching world, that Christ is everything to us.
By April Swiger, Contributing Writer
Advent is a season of anticipatory waiting. As Christians, we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior King, Jesus, and eagerly anticipate His second coming. It begins on the fourth Sunday before December 25th, and ends Christmas day.
Our culture does not like to wait. We have an infinite number of conveniences at our disposal to make sure instant gratification is always at our fingertips. For the believer in Christ, all of life is waiting for the final day of redemption when our faith will become sight. Contrary to what our culture says, waiting is a discipline that ought not be wasted, and God will use seasons of waiting to refine us in beautiful ways.
My husband and I are very familiar with waiting. In 2011 we entered a foster adoption process and waited three years for our first son, a bubbly 2.5 year old boy, to join our family (all the preparation in the world couldn’t have prepared us for the four-hour notice we had before he arrived at our doorstep). The waiting was excruciating at times, and it often felt like God had forgotten about us and we would never receive the blessing of children.
This past September, God grew our family again, bringing us another precious child from foster care, a baby boy who had been born 9 weeks premature. The wait we endured to bring him home from the NICU was hard on my heart, but worth every second.
Image by my mother at Ground to Grow on Photography
You don’t need to look far to see that our world is broken and in desperate need of redemption. Our adoption process, and our boys’ stories, are perfect examples of that. Our hearts and souls long for more than the most perfectly lit Christmas tree or the best Black Friday deal can ever provide.
Advent reminds us that no moment of waiting is meaningless. Our adoption journey gives us a minuscule glimpse of the greatest wait, the final redemption of our souls, by the Savior who first came to earth as a tiny baby. We rejoice in that truth first and foremost this Advent season!
How We Prepare our Hearts
One of my favorite parts of the season is the time I am able to spend preparing my heart for the coming King. On the first day of Advent my husband and I always open the book Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, by Nancy Guthrie. The short daily readings become a daily part of my time with the Lord throughout the month of December.
Now that we have two little ones in our home, we like to tailor their Advent reading to focus on the coming King as well. Last year we used The Jesus Storybook Bible, and this reading plan, for our son. Having a plan for kiddos, even a very simple one, allows for their hearts to be pointed toward Jesus in an extra special way as they wait for Christmas morning.
Another favorite book of mine is Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper, and we plan to read Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift for the first time this year. We also plan to use an advent calendar this year to add Scripture readings as a family each day.
Last year we had the privilege of experiencing our first Christmas morning with a toddler. It was heart-meltingly adorable to watch him come downstairs and see the tree, gifts underneath, for the first time! However, before we let our son tear into his packages, he has a very special job to complete!
During the Advent season I allow our son to play with an unbreakable nativity set. We talk about the Christmas story together, and he learns about each person who was there the night Christ was born. As we anticipate his arrival, I intentionally leave Jesus out of the set. On Christmas morning, our son gets to do the honors of placing Jesus in the manger, signifying his birth and the reason we are celebrating that day.
We love keeping our Christmas traditions simple, within our budget (we save for it all year to avoid any debt), and most of all, focused on Christ. Cutting down our Christmas tree every year, exchanging new pajamas on Christmas Eve, and drinking eggnog from the local farm (some of our other family traditions) means nothing without Jesus.
I pray your family will have grateful hearts this Christmas, focused on the one who gave it all so we could have life!