This is my favorite time of year: Thanksgiving…that leads to celebrating the Advent of Jesus Christ. Each December I set aside time to celebrate every part of the story that lead to the birth of our Savior….savoring each moment, studying each character.
When my husband I first married, one of the cultural differences we noticed early on was how we traditionally celebrated Christmas. He grew up in the former Yugoslavia – far from the Currier & Ives, Hollywood style, millions of lights and huge yard sets-style Christmas I was used to. My parents drag out about a half-dozen boxes bulging with everything from evergreen garland, wreathes and outdoor lights to 40+ years of accumulated tree ornaments, wall hangings, candles and nick-knacks. The walls resound with Burl Ives’ “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and Bing Crosby’s crooning voice dreaming of a white Christmas. The house is a Christmas wonderland. As a kid I sometimes wondered if I was at the North Pole (except I grew up in the rainy northwest where we rarely ever saw snow.)
Fast-forward some 30-odd years, and I am now in Croatia. While Christmas is quickly beginning to resemble what they’ve always seen in American films, it still doesn’t always translate over into people’s homes.
I really struggled with this a lot the first few years of our marriage, because I felt the absence of my childhood traditions so keenly. And my efforts to recreate those traditions stressed me out. A lot.
Couple that with the fact that my husband’s job threatens to keep him away from home on Christmas Eve night or Christmas Day – which last year was a reality, and I was forced to finally do what I should have done all along – surrender an ideal that really wasn’t very important.
What is important is peace in my home, peace in my heart, and a family that knows the real reason why we celebrate Christmas.
Christmas isn’t about family.
Christmas isn’t about magical feelings.
Christmas isn’t about childhood wonder at the lights and shiny decorations.
Christmas is about Jesus’ first coming to earth, born as a child but fully God in the flesh with a mission to redeem mankind from their sin. And so often the pretty lights and shiny trinkets, the earthy scent of a fresh-cut tree, and the myriads of gifts filled with things we don’t need…the romantic Hallmark films that propagate an idea that doesn’t closely resemble the truth, and all of those trappings that are not necessarily bad, tend to distract us from the real reason why blood-bought Christians, saved and sanctified, filled with Spirit of God choose to commemorate this important date that truly marks one of the two most significant dates in the history mankind!
A few years ago, I participated in my first-ever Advent study for the Christmas season, and in light of the fact that our Christmas was literally turned on its head, it was truly significant because it focused my heart and emotions where they needed to be! It wasn’t so important that we had to move our celebrations to another day of the week – because Christmas isn’t a day, it is an event to be celebrated and can be celebrated on any day of the year!
If you are struggling, much as I was, I hope you find the following list helpful to you.
Top 10 Books and Bible Studies for Advent
1. Good Morning Girls – you will hear me talk a lot about Good Morning Girls around here; and you can read why in my testimony about how Good Morning Girls literally changed the course of my ministry. Each December, Good Morning Girls offers a free Advent study online. At literally no cost to you, you will receive a free devotional book, reading plan, weekly videos, children’s manual, prayer journal, and you can choose to participate in an online group of women who will keep you accountable to your daily studies. To find out more about Good Morning Girls, go here.
2. Ann Voskamp – seriously, though – who doesn’t love Ann Voskamp. How could you not fall in love with her writings that could move the most hardened soul to tears. She is a master craftsman with words and her book One Thousand Gifts has been life-changing for so many. She has a second book called “The Greatest Gift” and you will find weekly videos on her her website A Holy Experience.
3. The Women of Christmas – by Liz Curtis Higgs takes a look at three significant women in the Christmas story to prepare your heart for this special season.
4. Did you know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a book on Advent? I didn’t either! God is in the Manger is a collection of 40 devotional reflections on Advent and Christmas.
5. Truth in the Tinsel – by Amanda White of Oh Amanda. This is more than just a devotional for the whole family, it is an experience. With this book, you will receive 24 days of scripture readings, craft ideas, free templates and ornament printables and more. If you have small children, this is exactly what you need to make the Christmas season extra-special, and packed with lots of meaning for them!
6. Celebrating Christmas with Jesus – by Max Lucado is a 30-day devotional journey of the life of Jesus – from His birth to His ascension into heaven, written in a way that only Max Lucado can!
7. The Birth of Jesus Grapevine Studies – I love this study for kids! My kids love drawing their way through the Bible with Grapevine studies. They are simple to do and perfect for the whole family as a family devotion. This one in particular takes you through each event leading up to Jesus’ birth. You can read my review of this Grapevine study for kids here.
8. In the Manger – by Max Lucado is a perfect devotional for the Christmas season as it is divided up into 25 inspirational devotionals that guide you through each event in the Christmas story!
9. Jesus the One and Only – by Beth Moore is a walk in the very footsteps of Jesus, Himself, while on earth as you follow this quest to know Him deeper and more intimately – the One who came and was born in a manger, lived a perfect life and died between two thieves just so we could live with Him for eternity.
I pray that this Christmas will be life changing for you, as you look past all of the glitter to the birth of our Savior in circumstances that were anything but romantic, cozy or lovely.
Dear reader: do you have a special devotional or book that you like to read for Advent? Is there a favorite Bible Study that you enjoy doing? Please take a moment and share it with us below!