8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)
What does Advent mean? It is supposed to be a time for quiet reflection and prayer in preparation for Christmas. In reality, it often means rushing around trying to find the perfect gift, hauling boxes of decorations down from the attic and detangling thousands of lights so you can decorate the house in a way that lives up to everyone’s expectations, and still managing to do all of the everyday tasks you need to get done. It seems like stores start putting the Christmas items out earlier each year, and some radio stations begin playing Christmas songs a month and a half before they need to, so that by December 1 everyone is already tired of hearing the same songs over and over. It’s hard to not be tired of the season before it even begins.
For as long as I can remember, The Charlie Brown Christmas Special has signaled the coming of Christmas. As a child, my understanding of the holiday season was limited. We were a military family often stationed far from extended family and we did not regularly attend church. Even with my limited exposure to church, I could sense some significant meaning in Linus’ words about the true meaning of Christmas. As an adult, I really appreciate the anti-commercialism message that gets right at what the meaning of Advent should be. There is something incredibly powerful yet calming in those verses from Luke, something that overcomes all of the frenzied activity of the secular side of the season. Advent is not about material things, not about outdoing the neighbors’ lighting displays, not about rushing around so much that you miss spending important time with family. We should instead focus on reading and trying to understand Scripture, spending time with those important to us, and thinking about what good we can do in the world rather than being distracted by all of the material temptations that surround us. Advent is a time to quietly reflect on what it means to us that “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. We have been given the best gift of all times in Jesus, and THAT is what really matters.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for loving us more than we can possibly comprehend. Please help us slow down and focus on what is truly important this Advent season. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Christian Education & Discipleship