How Advent Transforms January

ELIZABETH SANTELMANN|GUEST

It’s jarring to come off the worship of Advent season and land in January. A week after Christmas, we turn off the carols and snap on the workout track. We rush as quickly as possible toward productivity. We dream that our lofty goals will produce the perfect version of ourselves. Frantically, we scrawl habits that will make us as successful as possible in the shortest amount of time. If only we could turn over a new leaf, we would become as flawless as is humanly achievable! We attempt to shove down our own human frailties to claw our way to the pedestal of who we can become.

Oh, but January is hard. Our resolutions are interrupted by sick babies in the flu season. Snow days force us into the stillness of hibernation. We attempt to refocus our sights on the sweaty-faced trainers screaming “don’t give up on yourself now!” on the screens of our tv. The package of kale goes bad in the refrigerator. As one grey January day dissolves into the next, the willpower we mustered in our hearts begins to melt.

Don’t Forget Advent

What if we allowed the truths we learned in December to transform our hearts in January?

Advent is the celebration of Christ fulfilling the promise to return, our rest in the work he has done for us, and the anticipation of his coming again to make all things new. During Advent, we remind ourselves that He alone lived a perfect life. We rejoice that He gave himself to sacrificial death in order to purchase our salvation.

We gathered with people we love to remember perfect love given for us and the unity we will celebrate in eternity. Our homes were filled with the bounty of his goodness as the smells of baking drifted through our homes. Twinkling lights illuminated the darkness of the shortened days and struck in our hearts an awe in awareness of the one who lights the darkness of the world.

All that we learned and celebrated just last month doesn’t end on December 25. It transforms our entire year.

How Advent Transforms January…and Beyond  

During his earthly ministry, Jesus set an example of rest, time away to pray, and trust that the work he would do on the cross would complete the promise made to Adam and Eve in the garden. He didn’t need everyone to know the whole plan right away. He didn’t rush to die on the cross 24 hours after Adam and Ever were barred from Eden. He didn’t start preaching as soon as he could talk. He didn’t set an example of pushing himself to accomplish as much as he could during his time on the earth. His very life shows us the way of rest and trust in the Father.

Winter, the season after Advent, is such a beautiful time for stillness. Our hearts were just transformed by the remembrance of why he came to earth and the promise that he will come again. How would it look if we allowed that peace to leak into our reality? What would it look like to rest in the perfection of Christ for us, instead of clawing our way to our “best life” in our own strength?

Still Called to Change

It’s important to move our bodies to fight seasonal depression.

We should desire to know Christ by being in his Word.

Of course, it’s delightful to do things to sharpen our minds.

Our bodies need to be well cared for in order to fight disease.

Turning off the tv and reading a book is good for our brains.

But following a 10-step plan to improve our life isn’t what gives us value. We already have value because God declared us valuable. We are created in his image and covered in his perfection. If our performance isn’t the goal of our life, then why live a transformed life? The value of each day is to glorify God and live in the freedom Christ purchased on the cross for us.

Let’s abandon the mentality of the “best version of ourselves.” “Successful” sanctification isn’t about who becomes the “most perfect Christian” the fastest. We are transformed because Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life for us, and loved us to the point of death on a cross, not to form ourselves into something that can be lovable. Through the work of the Spirit in our hearts, we are transformed by the love of God for us, rather than by our guilt and shame.

The knowledge that your worth isn’t based on how well you perform will keep you from burning out halfway through the year. What this means is, when we are transformed by the work of God in and through us:

-We can delight in his creation through walks at sunset.

-We can joyfully put on a pot of tea and enjoy the richness of all he’s given to us.

-We can care for the physical body he gave us, not to receive the praise and glory from others, but to serve his church and steward what he has given us.

-We can engage with beautiful stories and ideas, because they reveal more of his character to us, rather than forcing ourselves to read books to impress others with our knowledge or cultural competency.

-We can enjoy the gifts he’s given, rather than always looking ahead to the next new thing to purchase.

In all these ways and more, remembering who Christ is and what he has done for us transforms how we face each day. It transforms how we view ourselves, how we set goals, how we live our lives for the glory of God. It transforms not only December, but January as well.

As you embark on a new year, with a to-do list and goals for 2022, remember that life is not a sprint. Growth in holiness takes more than a day, a month, or even a year. It takes a lifetime. As we live intentionally for God, may we never cease to celebrate Advent. Let’s live in the fullness of his goodness this January.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Santelmann

Elizabeth Santelmann is the homeschooling mother of three small boys. She loves reading and always has a large stack of books by her bed. She enjoys seeking beauty by taking photographs. And she started combining her photos with writing on Instagram @sunshineinmynest. Her hope was to share what she is learning about gently nurturing, and guiding, our children toward the gospel with our lives and speech. Before marriage she worked for 4 years in children’s ministry. She has attended Heritage Presbyterian Church with her husband the last 10 years. The past three years she has loved using what she learned about reformed theology, and children’s ministry to write Bible lessons for her church’s VBS. You can find her at sunshineinmynest.com.
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