I love Christmastime! The sights, sounds, and smells of the season spark so many memories for me. Advent in itself is full of tradition and offers us a time for reliving memories and creating new ones. But I do admit, the hustle and bustle can overwhelm me. If you’re like me, particularly during the Christmas season, your to-do list seems endless. There are places to be, gifts to buy, decorating to be done, parties to attend, meals to plan and prepare. But in all of these preparations, where on our list does preparing space for Him fall in our minds, hearts, and actions?
Traditions are important to me and to the legacy that my husband and I leave our children. They reinforce our beliefs and values or what is important to us. They allow us to connect with others, be in relationship with others. Traditions give us space, time, and room to pause and reflect and realize what matters most. For me and my family, I must make a conscious effort to keep my attitude and heart in the right place during the Christmas season, to make traditions intentional and meaningful, and to be reminded that I celebrate because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
As I take a moment to reflect on the traditions that have become my own and those that my husband and I have adopted, adapted, and developed for our family, I first think back to my own childhood. As a young girl I have fond memories at Christmas when we would pause, be still (or as still as children could be) and read scripture and a devotion from the book, Christmas at Home by Elizabeth Swadley. We would sing carols as a family, pray individually and collectively, and light the advent candles set upon a wooden advent wreath that was carved with images of the manger scene. As a child I was included in the tradition. My voice was recognized and welcomed. Now, as an adult and mother of two children, I have adopted this same practice with my own family using the same book and advent wreath gifted to us from my parents. It still serves as a reminder to me to prepare Him room, to slow down, to listen to one another, to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying, and in the process, to build our bond with one another and with Christ.
Another intentional step we take to prepare for the advent season as a family of four is to choose and cut our own Christmas tree. For the last seven years we have celebrated Thanksgiving in the NC Mountains and as part of this tradition we bundle up and go out to a Christmas tree farm to find our family tree. While it can sometimes be seen as a box to check off that holiday to-do list, we try to make it more – for ourselves and for our children. First, we give thanks for time as a family. We are grateful to be outside, enjoying God’s creation. Some years, like this one, we find our tree right away, but instead of rushing to get back to our car, we pause, we take in the sights of other families looking for their trees. We talk with others – hearing more about their new or longtime tradition of finding a Christmas tree. It reminds us that memories are being made in these face-to-face moments with the members of our family and with those we meet. We look forward with anticipation, rather than expectation of what’s to come for the season ahead – whose path we might cross, the distractions we may face, and we are reminded – on that quiet mountain – to see even the smallest of things that God has in store for us.
I must make an intentional decision each day, and especially at Advent, not to let my list rob me of these special moments and the surprises that God has for me and my family along the way. I pray that the Lord will help me find stillness and contentment in the quiet. I pray for peace, His peace. For Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring world peace in the way that we imagine it, rather He came to bring peace to those who would call on His name.
By Dana F. Sumner
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. ~Colossians 3:15
How can you allow the peace of Christ to “rule in your hearts” during this Advent Season?
How can you prepare your home to be a place of peace amidst the chaos of the world outside?