This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law Emily here with me. We are doing an Advent show and we’re excited. I'm proud of us Emily, for how far ahead we're planning.
Emily: We don't even have a Christmas tree up right now as we're recording this.
Laura: It’s October when we are recording, that's how far ahead we are planning! This is so it gets to you nice and early so you can plan for Advent.
Every year we get a lot a lot of questions about Advent, what resources we like, what traditions we do, how we keep things focused on Christ, and we have an entire resources page dedicated just to Advent resources. There are a lot of great ideas on there. Some of the things that Emily and I will be referencing today will be on the resources page. In addition, we also have all of Emily’s and I favorite books for kids, different C.D.'s and music, and general resources for training your children in the gospel, and lots for moms as well. If you're looking for some Christmas present ideas or anything like that, head over there, check out the list, see what you like, and hopefully you find some good stuff for Christmas.
Emily: Speaking of Advent resources, I feel like it's getting to be trendier or cooler to do something for Advent. There is a lot more stuff out there than I ever remember. Growing up, I had one of those chocolate Advent calendars that you open a little door every day.
Laura: I know! I didn’t even know what the word Advent meant until about five years ago.
Emily: I feel like it can be a little overwhelming to try to discern what you should use with what stage of life and then there's a lot of pressure on, “What if I pick the wrong thing?”
Laura: I agree. We have another show on Advent that we did last year. If you haven't listened to that one and you're curious about traditions and the whole concept of traditions and why we are big fans of traditions, head back there and listen to that show. We'll link to it in the show notes. On that show, we talk a little bit about different upbringings with Christmas. Emily is like the tradition-happy family. I grew up with very few traditions. I think there is so much pressure on building these beautiful traditions that you're going to remember forever, that your children will talk about someday when they come home from college and do with their own families. But the beautiful thing is it doesn't have to be that way at all.
One thing that I have really enjoyed about learning more about Advent, is that it really extends the season. It doesn't feel like it's just like this one day a year where suddenly it’s past.
Emily: I feel like once I learned more about what Advent is and I focus on the true purpose of the Advent season, then I feel like there's a lot of freedom and a lot of joy in getting to continually bring the children and the family back to getting excited about Christ – which we're going to talk about.
Laura has done some awesome research to give you Advent in a nutshell.
Laura: I did a little research for you guys, about what “Advent” means and what it is. If this isn't a term that's familiar to you, the word “Advent” comes from the Latin word Adventus and in Greek Parousia.[laughter] That's the Greek term and it is the word that is used for both the coming of Christ in human flesh, and his second coming. It means looking backwards and looking forward. We can look to that night in Bethlehem where God became flesh and that's looking backward, but then we're also looking forward because we all know that baby Jesus isn't the end of the story. Praise the Lord! There is so much more to come and even after the cross that we are still waiting yet today in 2017, we're waiting for Jesus to come back as the conquering King.
I've always appreciated this saying from John Piper. He says, “It's patient waiting and hopeful expectation.” It's acknowledging our in-betweeness. We live in this already but not yet. I think that's what Advent is all about. Typically, it starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas day. This year, 2017, it starts on December 3rd. Mark your calendar so you can start it if you like.
It started way back in the 4th century with Christians. In the medieval traditions, they would fast and go to church every day during this time. It was a time for them to focus on the return of Christ like I talked about, but then also focus on Christ who came as a baby fulfilling all the prophecies and in the Old Testament. A handy comparison is Lent and Easter. You have Lent, and you have Advent, to prepare for more significant holidays that are ahead. Advent is a longer time to prepare your heart for Christmas.
The biggest thing you guys probably need to note is Advent isn't in the Bible. [laughter] That means it's optional. As much pressure as it can feel like Christians put on this holiday or the season, it's optional. It's a traditional from church history that is wonderful, but it is not a requirement. We want you guys all to just breathe a big sigh of relief about that right now.
Emily: The important thing to remember, exactly like you're saying Laura, is that it's a chance to celebrate what God set in motion long before the beginning of time, what he does in this whole Ceation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration story, that we see all throughout scripture, that we talk about every week on Risen Motherhood, we get a chance to spend four weeks focusing our family on that. It’s basically an excuse to talk to your kids about the gospel.
Laura: It’s a perfect chance for us to talk with our kids and to help them to understand that we are not so different from God's people in the Old Testament. They were waiting for the coming of God in human flesh, just like today we wait for Christ to come back and to rescue us. Advent is about the “longing and waiting,” that's what you hear people using those phrases for. We can look back and identify a lot with the people in the Old Testament: Moses and the Israelites who were seeking the one who would free them, the judges waiting for the true judge to come and reign, the kings who were looking for the final perfect King, and the prophets who were looking for the one they prophesied about.
We can take this season of Advent to look back and know that we play a part in the story and we are not any different from the people in the Bible, even though we live on this side of the cross. That's what we can drive home with our kids; taking time to talk with them and reminding ourselves that we are embedded in the redemption story. We are part of it.
Emily: I wanted to pull this out because I thought Lori Wilbert who recently wrote on the Risen Motherhood blog said it well: “Waiting is the whole story of Scripture. For the Old Testament believers waiting for their Messiah for what God had promised them, this was their story and for the New Testament believer. This is us. We are waiting for the second coming of our groom. The whole story of Scripture is the middle, the wait. We know the beginning and the end, but we exist in that hollow space.”
This is an important concept to share with our children. Hopefully this is another opportunity to share with our families because our hearts become really numb to it. I think that's something I struggle with and it is amazing how hard-headed we are. I can say it as I’m recording an episode, [laughs] I can share it with my children over breakfast, and then like three minutes later, I am not living like those things are true. Advent is a wonderful time to rehearse the good truths repeatedly.
Laura: We all know, as we started out the show, how hard it is to really keep focused during the Christmas season. As Emily just got done saying, this is a great chance for a reset in our Christian life to remember the grand story that God set into motion before the beginning of time. There are a lot of traditions, as we also discussed, but we're only going to share three common ways with you today just to keep it simple – because we know how easy it is to get overwhelmed. And we all need to remember that the point isn't about what you do; it's not about the tradition, but about your heart during this season. We'll kick it off with the first one which is Advent wreaths or candles.
Emily: This is something that a lot of people may know from their church. This is something that is often done in corporate worship but it's something you could do at home too. Essentially, it's lighting a group of four candles. You light one each Sunday of Advent, and then some people add a fifth for the day of Christmas. There are special colors and you can do different arrangements, but the point is, it's a way to mark the passing of time, and obviously light is a symbol of Christ – and I feel like … if you Google that, there's deep imagery for each candle. [laughter] You could get deep into the wreath thing.
Laura: Do not be surprised if your kids just want to blow them out and have you re-light them like a million times over.
Okay, so, the next one is an Advent calendar. These can look all sorts of different ways. If you do a quick Pinterest search, you're going to get a vast variety of different calendars. I have one that we typically do, and I can post a link on the show notes. We tend to do the Jesse Tree ornaments with it. We're not going to go into what that is on the show today, but we will post links to things that give you more information about it. I've also seen people use Advent calendars to write attributes of God each day or maybe inside the calendar they have service opportunities or Emily's pieces of chocolate. [laughter]
Emily: We even do … .well, what we have done the last few years is a simple paper chain as a visual, instead of doing numbers. When all of our kids were three and under, they didn't necessarily recognize the numbers, they were having a hard time with the whole concept of sitting and reading every day. So I would literally just take a piece off the chain and we would do a simple activity. Sometimes as simple as like reading a story or singing a Christmas carol together and then they could visually watch the chain get smaller and smaller until they were freaking out because there were one or two links left. [laughter]
There's so many different ways you can do it.
Laura: This leads us into our final recommendation for celebrating the Advent season, doing a devotional or a scripture reading. Typically, people will take a selection of biblical texts that hint towards the first and second comings of Jesus. There are a lot of good ones which we will post links on the show notes. I'm excited this year for Paul David Tripp’s Come Let Us Adore Him devotional. If you like New Morning Mercies, I assume you'll like this one.
Emily: Some other ones of note: Nancy Guthrie, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, Russ Ramsey has Behold the Lamb of God, John Piper has a good one, and She Reads Truth has a beautiful Advent devotional that you can get off their website. There are lots of them out there and we will link to some of our favorites in the show notes.
Laura: But for your kids though, one of our favorites is the Jesus Story Book Bible. You've heard us talking about it on the show many times. They release an Advent reading plan for free, so we will link to that. If you have the JSB Bible you've already got everything you need to work on that with your kiddos. There are so many options out there if you quick Google search you’ll find some. Just know we were sort of sifting through the materials just like you are. Go out there and find what works for your family. [laughter]
Emily: Obviously, there have been a ton of things created to help us celebrate Advent, but the main thing is not getting caught up in feeling burden, heavy-laden, and guilty. Like, we do not need one more thing to feel guilty about in December that we are not doing right. [laughter] It’s important to convey the message of true rest in Christ to our families. This is a joy that we get to have this devotional time or do this Advent activity. It's meant to bring joy, not to burden.
Laura: I think as soon as I switched my mindset to Advent being a time of rest and peace and not like a legalistic-crazy-woman attitude, it really helped. I have started looking forward to Advent since September! I can’t wait for the break with Advent and Christmas. That is some backwards thinking for our culture today, isn't it? That is something that over time has been freeing for me. I hope that it is for you as well.
A few final thoughts that have helped me in this thinking. The first thing is you may have to say no to things during the month of December. Make sure that you add space because you are adding something new in.
Emily: Just pick one or two simple ways to celebrate Advent. Don't do all the Advent activities all at the same time. It is okay to choose one small thing and try to be consistent. Honestly, even if you miss several days, it's okay. Get right back on. Your kids don't know you skipped three readings. [laughter] That happens to us a lot, but I still feel like even if you were to only do something, let's say three days a week, over the course of the whole month of December, that is still going to make an impact in the culture of your family.
Laura: And with that, keep it fun. One thing that I often think about with my kids, is that I want my kids to understand the weight, importance, and the heaviness of the gospel because it is heavy - but in a good way. But I also want them to understand that God loves fun too. He invented fun. He is humorous, he makes jokes, he gave us those things and we image him in those things. Emily and I, especially having little kids, we do not expect them to sit still for 20 minutes during our monologues. We don't even really expect them to sit still for three minutes! Just roll with your family and know that stuff is getting in there. God is using that time, He's using you and every little deposit you make is a true investment in their eternity.
Emily: Finally if you did something last year and it didn't work, you don't have to do the same thing this year. You can start something and change it up midway through the month there are no rules on this. [laughter] I think we're going to do something new this year. Have fun, be free, celebrate Jesus. There you go.
Laura: As we wrap up today’s show, we hope you guys will come and find us over on social media as we will talk about that more this week. We're on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @RisenMotherhood. You can head to our website for the show notes at risenmotherhood.com, you'll find the show notes and lots more at the resources page where we've neatly curated lots of things that Emily and I really enjoy. Have a great Advent!