What really matters - making more space for joy this advent
Advent is here and I’m excited to share with you some of the things we can all do in our families to get our hearts and minds focused on what really matters.
Let me start by going back a little bit……
Last January, after reading an inspiring and beautiful blog by Ann Voskamp called “The Grateful Christmas Project” I gathered my boys together and excitedly described our family’s new plan.
I explained, “Next year for Christmas I thought we might try something different! You know how Mommy and Daddy feel about the importance of keeping our hearts centered on the true meaning of Christmas - the gift God gave us in the birth of Jesus Christ. Well, I want our actions to reflect our beliefs and I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that so far. While baking a birthday cake for Jesus is fun, and I’m sure he delights in the happy birthday song we sing to him on Christmas Eve, I want our family to experience more, so much more, of the true meaning of Christmas. And one of the ways I thought we might experience more of Christ at Christmas next year is by thinking about what we can give to Jesus – it is HIS birthday we are celebrating, after all – instead of focusing on all of the stuff we want but really don’t need.”
I reminded the boys of what we read in the Bible, in Matthew 25:40, where Jesus says, ‘For sure, I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of My brothers, you have done it to Me.’ And I explained how we can give to Jesus by giving to those who have real needs.
The boys looked at each other, then they looked strangely at me. As they pondered the magnitude of this new plan, the question on their faces was something like, “Who is this woman and what has she done with our mother?”
Then Brennan spoke first, simply but profoundly revealing the nature of our human hearts. “Um, Mom, how about we do both? We can give presents, but we can still get presents too. Mom, we need presents. It’s Christmas!” Cal and Owen nodded in agreement. The plan seemed fair enough to them, as they both chimed in, “Yeah, let’s do both!”
My heart was heavy, realizing how little we’ve done to teach our kids about sacrificial love. But before I could launch into a speech that would only induce guilt and do nothing for the condition of the boy’s hearts, I remembered. Ah, yes, I remembered……. Sacrificial love for others flows from a heart that first remembers Christ’s sacrificial love for us. His grace.
So how do we teach our kids about the unexpected blessing that comes from living a life of unlimited generosity, humbly putting others before ourselves? How do we teach our kids that because everything we need we already have in Christ Jesus, we are free to give generously of ourselves. (Philippians 4:19)
Well, first we must understand what makes us free. The wholehearted and “limitless love” of Christ.
The late Brennan Manning writes, in The Furious Longing of God, “The Christian becomes aware that God’s appeal for unlimited generosity from His people has been preceded from His side by a limitless love, a love so intent upon a response that He has empowered us to respond through the gift of His own Spirit.”
Yes, the gift of Christ.
So this year it’s time to put that “Grateful Christmas Project” plan into action by keeping our hearts focused on the limitless love of Christ. Less for us, more for others, and I think the boys will be surprised by how good it will feel.
And while our new focus on getting less and giving more is good, what I’m most excited about is how we will prepare our hearts for Christmas this year and keep it focused on the limitless love of Christ in Christmas. How we will soak our hearts in grace, and pray more passionately, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come."
So I want to share with you a not-so-little pile of books that I know will bless all of our families tremendously this year. Oh, this is going to be so very good.
As you may have read in many of my past blogs, there isn’t a Bible on this planet I love more than the Jesus Storybook Bible. Don’t let the cover fool you. Adults have a lot to learn from the inspiration of Sally Lloyd Jones in this children’s Bible. I know I have.
And just when I thought this Bible couldn’t be any more wonderful, I just learned it is.
The Jesus Storybook Bible is the perfect Advent reading plan! So check this out. This Bible is laid out so that there are twenty-one stories from the Old Testament leading up to the birth of Christ and then three stories from the New Testament around the birth of Christ. So while our boys like to flip around and choose stories randomly at night, we are going to start back at Genesis, and read this Bible in order, which will land right on the birth of Christ on Christmas morning. What a way to remember how “every story whispers His name” and to see that culminate on Christmas morning. Click here for the wonderful, printable advent plan.
And oh yes, another goodie you must order today.
This right here- Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. Hot off the press, to feed your kid’s souls each morning during advent. We will be starting our mornings with this jewel!
And just for you, friend! Here it is - Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.
Give yourself the gift of reading this book this advent so that, in Ann’s words, “come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn't blurred past you but your heart's fully unwrapped the greatest gift you've always yearned for.”
And finally, if you're looking to curl on up the couch in front of a warm fire and read a tender and short book that will warm your soul, click here for Merry's Christmas - a beautifully written story of hope for those facing a different kind of Christmas.
Friends, during Advent this year, let us allow our hearts be stirred as we ponder the greatest gift of all, the sacrificial and limitless love of Christ. Come Lord Jesus.