Four Ways to Prepare [Spiritually] for Christmas
I was delightfully reading a new little Advent devotional I was sampling on my Kindle when I was hit with these words:
“Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared.”
Yikes. I went from delightfully reading to desperately panicking in seconds: what does it mean to be spiritually prepared for Christmas? I did a quick inventory: my gifts were bought (well, almost), the tree was up, the lights were hung (check, check, check). I even dutifully wore my Advent purple to church on Sunday (does that count?). But I realized I hadn’t really given much thought to preparing, really preparing, spiritually, for Christmas.
Am I the only one? How about you (don’t worry, no one is forcing you to make a public confession here)?
Thankfully, as I read on, the little book provided some helpful tips for preparing spiritually for Christmas, and I’d like to share them here, while adding some of my own comments to each.
Four Ways to Prepare Spiritually for Christmas:
1. Meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. My friend recently confessed that in growing up in a Christian home, she has never really understood the depth of her need for a Savior. Another friend, on the other hand, after battling with addiction for years, knows and relies daily on her desperate need for her Savior, the very giver of her sanity, health and life. Most of us probably fall somewhere in between. Spend time this Advent asking God to deepen your awareness of your need for Him as a Savior.
2. Engage in sober self-examination. This does not mean checking how many moles are on your back or how many wrinkles have appeared around your eyes (though there is a time and place for this kind of examination!). Rather, this is a deep internal examination of how we are doing spiritually. I like these questions provided by author Sally Clarkson in her book Own Your Life:
What season of the Christian life am I currently experiencing?
What seasons have I come through, and what’s my trajectory pointing toward?
What’s most needed right now?
What’s God saying to me?
How can I deepen my sense of being in relation to God?
How can I further my intention to live out my Christian life?
Advent leading up to Christmas is [or should be] like Lent leading up to Easter. There should be built in time for reflection.
3. Build God-centered anticipation and expectancy into your home–especially for the children. I confess the most exciting thing about Christmas growing up was the anticipation of not knowing what might show up under the tree on Christmas morning. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but I do think we need to also be asking how we can get excited about Christmas beyond material things. How can we get our kids excited about our King’s arrival? This may take some imagination and creativity, but surely there are ways. For our kids, who are still very young, so far we have incorporated the following traditions (and are always open to new ideas):
Mixing in as many nativity-centered stories and movies as Santa Clause-centered ones
Including nativity scenes in our home as visual reminders to talk about the birth of Jesus
Giving three gifts (only!) to each child as a way of incorporating the three gifts brought to Jesus at his birth (see Matthew 2:11)
Beginning Christmas morning lighting a candle and reading the Christmas story from the Bible aloud together
What traditions and rituals have helped your family build God-centered anticipation and excitement for Christmas? Please do share ideas!
4. Be much in the Scriptures (and memorize the great passages). I am always amazed at how when I enter back into the Scriptures (yes, after a certain unintended time away), it brings life, light, hope and healing into my soul. It it never too late to re-engage with God through His Word. Try reading through the two gospel narratives chronicling Jesus' birth: Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-21 this Advent. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal something new to you that you haven't seen or noticed before.
I pray these four suggestions may help you and me on our way to preparing spiritually for Christmas. Are there any others you would add? Please share them here. I believe the joy and impact of Christmas will be so much greater if we are ready!