I’ll admit it. I have always been a Hallmark-watching, over-the-top lover of all things Christmas, but as a parent, I love the holidays differently now. I want my children to love these times as much as I used to, but for me, they are not so “perfect” anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still get excited about the snow, time with family, and the opportunity to focus on and celebrate Christ, but the expectations have changed. I have to keep a calendar reminding me of the band concert, Christmas programs, children’s choir practice, work Christmas party, and the brunch for my Titus 2 group. I feel guilty because some people buy presents for EVERYONE —co-workers, bosses, friends, and the letter carrier—yet I feel like I can barely buy for my immediate family. Not to mention the cards I am supposed to get out, if I do at all. By December 20th I am exhausted, realizing that I failed again to accomplish the holiday tasks I aspired to do, tasks which others seem to accomplish without a hitch.
As I ponder this unique 2020 Christmas season, I am convicted when I consider the shepherd’s excitement to see the Christ-child so many years ago. Upon hearing the good news from the angelic assembly, they responded, “‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’ . . . when they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them . . .the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:15,17-18,20). Oh, that my family would capture their excitement and embrace the joy of the Advent season!
A Mary Season
COVID has changed our lives in so many ways this year. It is safe to say our holiday season will change as well. There will likely be fewer holiday activities, less travel, and smaller celebrations. We’ll likely miss the annual school play. Some families may not gather together this season. And only time will tell how the Christmas Eve candlelight service will look. The all too familiar refrain of disappointment will be heard everywhere this December.
Yet, as we enter a holiday unlike any we’ve seen before, I can’t help but think of the opportunities before us. Opportunities to see more of Jesus this Advent season, to feel the excitement of the shepherds, wise men, Anna, and Simeon. Opportunities for less distractions and a more focused heart on the one who brought salvation to a lost world. And the opportunity to be more like Mary instead of Martha, seeking to learn from Christ rather than focusing on the busyness and tasks of the season. .
Different Isn’t Always Bad
God promises his children, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even during an upside-down Advent season. I am clinging to this promise and praying that I would be open to learning whatever God has for me this season. I don’t want to waste the opportunity to focus on the incarnation and rejoice over Christ’s birth.
To that end, I’ve compiled a few practical ways to do just that.
- Advent Devotional: Each day during Advent, read a devotional focused on the incarnation of Christ. Click here for some ideas, including ones to do with children.
- Christmas Hymns: Choose one Christmas hymn per night/week and read the bible story or historical event which inspired it.
- Names of Jesus: Study the names of Christ starting with the names mentioned in Isaiah 9:6-7 and further by using resources such as those listed here.
- Angel Tree: This is a ministry of Prison Fellowship, a ministry which my family and church participate in by providing gifts for children whose parents are in prison. It is also important to pray for these children and their families.
- Christmas Cards: During dinner each night, pray for those who send you Christmas cards.
- Crisis Pregnancy Center: Check with your local center to see if there is a single mother or young family you can support for the holidays.
- Cards/Calls/Visits: This year any form of communication will be extremely important, especially to the elderly and homebound. Consider creative ways to connect and communicate with others including far away family members and people in your church who feel disconnected. Bring some Christmas cookies to an elderly neighbor. Have your children make homemade cards for distant relatives. Host a virtual gathering with family and friends.
While Christmas will be different this year, it can be a good different. Like those at the first Christmas, let us rejoice over God’s goodness in sending his Son. Let us respond to Jesus in awe as the shepherds, wise men, and others did. Let us “choose the good portion” and focus on why he came. And let us trust that while our plans this Advent may look different than usual, God’s plans for us are always good.
About the Author:
Jessica Roan has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from Oklahoma Baptist University and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Montana State University-Billings. She is a high school English teacher, mentor and blogger. She can be found at email@example.com. She enjoys writing, hiking, skiing and traveling. She lives in Billings, Montana with her husband and two boys. Her home church is Rocky Mountain Community Church.