Recently I heard a devotional about Advent, a time of reflection on the coming of a promised Savior. Many churches and families celebrate Advent with a wreath, lighting one candle each week until Christmas, when the center candle is lit. My mom had one that we lit each year growing up and our church also lights one.
Since I heard the devotion, I’ve been thinking about preparation for Christmas. Most of my preparations are finished already – presents bought, decorations up, plans made for traveling. I still plan to make a few Christmas cookies and a few more gifts, but I feel ready for Christmas to come.
I was surprised when the topic of Christmas preparations came up with friends. It seemed to me that many of them feel like there are too many things to do before Christmas to finish it all. And I wondered why that seemed odd to me – I don’t feel that way at all. I’m sure part of it is due to only having one child and that he is still young – we don’t have extra school or church Christmas-related activities filling our schedule. Nor do we have to prepare gifts for teachers, coaches, or Sunday School leaders.
But I think some of it is that I don’t feel like we have to do much to celebrate anymore. The big Christmas excitement for the last few years was seeing the giant Coca-Cola tree go up in the parking lot of one of the supermarkets in Cochabamba, and seeing all of the seasonal Christmas items show up in the market. We listened to Christmas music at home and celebrated with our teammates and our church. And that was about it. Christmas in Bolivia is pretty similar to any other holiday in Bolivia – there is a little preparation, the celebration on Christmas, and then it’s over. There isn’t nearly as much hype in the culture over Christmas, and so it is a lot simpler.
We want Advent to be a time of preparing our hearts to celebrate the joyous news that the King of kings was born on earth. We want our focus to be on God and what He is doing around us – and how we can be used to bless others, especially at this time of year when we remember how He has blessed us. We’re still learning how to do this, and I’m sure it will be different as our family grows. But I’m thankful that God has given me the desire to draw near to him.
O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
-Verse 3, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel