Advent: Slowing for More Joy & More Jesus
I love December, but it's a busy month; full of decorating, baking, shopping, and events. Lately, I've noticed I've been falling into bed exhausted and frustrated over all of the things I did not get accomplished, and I've been waking up with a list of“must-do now” items pressing in hard. I don’t know about you, but this crazy-train makes me crave peace. I crave simplicity, and more than anything, my soul aches to be close to God’s heart instead of running around the halls of the mall.
Let's take a deep breathe together and get our hearts and minds in a good place. Let's sit at the feet of Jesus and unwrap the best gift we've ever been given....
So what is Advent?? The word “Advent” means waiting. Waiting for the second coming of Christ, and waiting and anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’s birthday (aka Christmas). The Advent Calendar is often used to give us a visual, and sometimes tangible, activity to count down the days until Christmas morning. What you may not know is how this calendar was created. A long time ago, there was a German pastor who worked with orphaned children. Each and every day during December, the children would ask him how many more days were left until Christmas (sound familiar?). Their gleeful anticipation caused this pastor to grab an old wagon wheel and drill 24 holes into it to begin a countdown for the children. He stuck candles in each of the holes and would light a candle each day until Christmas finally arrived. This pastor was passionate about teaching the children about the love of Christ, so he came up with a brilliant plan to highlight the Sundays in December by lighting a bigger candle and associating them with a short lesson about the real meaning of Christmas. Today this tradition still remains in our homes and in churches around the world.
The lighting of candles in the Advent calendar symbolizes Christ- The Light of the World.
In Genesis, the Bible says,
“In the beginning was the word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word gave life to everything…and His life brought LIGHT to everyone. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
HOPE: The HOPE candle is the first Sunday candle we light.
We serve a God who overflows and imparts hope, joy and peace, He charges His Holy Spirit to fill us up and infuse us with HOPE. God desires to make this hope and His promises clear to us.
Hebrews 6:18-19 says, "We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary."
I love that word picture of HOPE as our supernatural anchor for our souls. A small boat in the ocean rocks and bobs. If it is not secured, it can easily drift away in calm waters, or may suddenly be smashed on rocks in turbulence. Its anchor, however, holds it firm, and keeps it safe. It may not be free from distress, but it is held by a deep and reliable source. So the soul is “Sure and Steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19) in the hope God has given to hold it steady.
Hebrews 6:19-20 goes on to say that the hope we have leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” The Greek text uses the word prodromos- or forerunner- to describe Jesus in this verse. Forerunner, in the 2nd century, referred to a small boat (or dinghy) that was sent into a harbor during a storm when it would be dangerous for larger ships to enter. This little boat would carry the ship’s anchor with it into the harbor, and lower it down, thus giving the storm-tossed ship a secure hold in the sheltered area. The crew from the small boat would then go to ashore and wait for the storm to end, and when the ship could safely sail into the harbor, the crew would be reunited.
So… Jesus is said to be our forerunner; He is the one who goes ahead of us to heaven, and He is the anchor that secures our place there. He’s waiting for us and we will get to reunite with him soon!
That’s Hope- That’s Security! And the Security of belonging to God is one of the blessings of our salvation. HOPE is a gift of the Holy Spirit that, with faith and love, is an essential characteristic of Christians.
PEACE: The PEACE candle is the 2nd Sunday candle we light. Jesus came to earth to be our ABSOLUTE & PERFECT PEACE.
It can be easy for me to live a fractured soul. The kind that pulls in 10,000 directions, the kind that insists I compete, do more and live up until finally I crash down. That’s no way to live.
But there is a strong stillness deep within me, the place where God lives.
He is not pulled in 10,000 directions and IN HIM; neither am I. Peace isn’t the absence of the dark. Peace is the assurance of God’s presence in the midst of the dark. We must cast aside the thought that in order to find peace, we must first have perfect order. Ephesians 2:14 boldly states that Christ Himself is our peace!
"Peace is a person, not place, state of mind or a circumstance under complete control. The person I want to be and the peace that I so desperately seek isn’t found in being more- but in trusting more."
Trusting in the God of Hagar, Ruth and Hannah. The God who sees the angst, who nourishes the empty places, who hears unspoken cries…. And answers! Let your heart rest: You are already enough. Your main task in securing peace is not to fight- but rather to trust.
In Isaiah 26:3 the Lord says “I will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in me, those whose thoughts turn often to me.” Nothing can rob your peace and your joy if you keep your thoughts bound to Him.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world give, so let not your heart be troubled or fearful…… “John 14:27”
The PEACE candle boldly represents that, IF WE MAKE SPACE FOR CHRIST, WE MAKE SPACE FOR PEACE.
JOY: The 3rd Sunday candle we light is the JOY candle. God gives us the gift of laughter.
God gives the weary woman a gift of laughter, or "oxygenated grace"…. Genesis 21 tells us the story of Sarah and how she became pregnant and gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. The Lord kept His word and did for Sarah exactly what He said He would, and it happened at just the right time. Abraham was 100 year olds when Isaac was born and Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.” Can you picture Sarah… her wrinkles and weariness melting away as she held her new baby close?
"God gives us the gift of laughter- like bubbly, fizzy soda-pop joy for our hearts." And Joy is the giant secret gift of the Christian, the gift that GOD gives us to unwrap.
The meaning of the word, “GOSPEL” in Greek is JOY NEWS. And in Luke 2:7-15, our JOY NEWS is unwrapped for us as the birth of Christ is highlighted forever in the Word of God.
No one can take away our JOY! Our own joy is directly connected to our ability to give thanks to God. It’s a balanced equation….You give thanks and you get JOY.
PSALM 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for JOY and I will give thanks to Him.
LOVE: The 4th and final Sunday candle we light is the LOVE candle. It’s my favorite one to talk about, because it’s the greatest gift we’ve ever been given.
The writer of Proverbs says what man craves the most is unfailing love. We all want love more than anything and we’ll do anything to get it. God made us this way… He also instilled an internal desire to give love to others. Our amazing and awesome God prewired us with the gift of LOVE at the very heart of everything.
The most wonderful and promising truth about love is that God’s very name is LOVE, He is the source of LOVE and in 1 John 4:7, we learn that all love springs up from God. It’s a gift that never gets old, or broken, or runs out. It’s an enduring and critical love that we can always have- but we have to let God love on us.
We have to let God pour his love all over us, let it soak in and fill up all of our empty places. It’s up to us to accept and receive this gift. Stop running, slow yourself and let His gifts wash over you.
Love came down to us when Jesus poured Himself out into the form of a helpless baby boy. Born in the muck and mire of a stable that was dirty and available for Mary to labor in- because no one else would even considered lowering themselves to sleep there for the night.
He chose rock bottom for His start and He knows what it is to be us, and He did this out of His pure, real, divine love for us.
This love can change us. It can cause us to act in unnatural ways- that perplex and blow other people’s minds. When we tap into God’s divine love, and act out of His divine love, God is shown and reflected to others.
1 John 4:9 confirms this, and says, “ No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.
God is perfect love! Where we fall short- He’s got our back, and when we love others with divine love, we are glorifying God and revealing God to a hurting world.
In case you are missing this…
If you don’t know what you need most for Christmas, or you don’t know what to get your loved ones- or even your enemies for Christmas- It’s the gift of LOVE!!! The gift of LOVE is the perfect gift for everyone, and it’s the very thing we all need the most.
Chris Jami says it best…."The reality of loving God is loving Him like he’s a superhero who actually saved you from stuff- rather than a Santa Clause who merely gave you some stuff".
Will you join me in waiting expectantly this Advent season? My prayer for all of us is that we will keep our eyes pealed, looking for Jesus- instead of looking for that perfect gift. I pray that the Holy Spirit would light a fire and a passion in your heart, and that you will see Jesus this Holiday season. He's the BEST gift we've ever been given, and He is definitely someone you don't want to miss.
Merry Christmas from my heart & soul to yours....