Directing one’s attention to the miracle of Christ’s birth at anytime, let alone during the busy-year-end-crazy-fest, requires intentionality. That’s probably why traditional Christian calendars have long included the period of Advent: a few weeks set aside to emphasize the incarnation of God in the birth of Christ.
While most of us don’t celebrate the traditional feasts and other practices associated with the liturgical calendar, a simple way to practice Advent is to get a bird’s eye view of the whole story arc of the Bible and how it points to Jesus. There are lots of volumes to help you to do this, including the excellent children’s book, The Jesus Storybook Bible.
Read aloud together
The Jesus Storybook Bible is a great way for kids and grownups to anticipate the arrival of Christ’s birth. By reading together each night beginning December 1st, you can start with Chapter 1, and end with the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve.
Of course, capturing the overarching Christian story is not just for kids. Take the opportunity to go deeper by reading (perhaps with a spouse, roommate, or friend) the corresponding scripture passage for each of the storybook’s chapters:
- Psalm 19 and Hebrews 1
- Genesis 1-2
- Genesis 3
- Genesis 6-8
- Genesis 11
- Genesis 12 (cf. Genesis 13-21)
- Genesis 22
- Genesis 29-30
- Genesis 37 and 42-45 (cf. Genesis 38-41; 46)
- Exodus 12:1-28 (cf. 3-13)
- Exodus 14-15
- Exodus 16-17
- Joshua 3 and 6
- 1 Samuel 16
- 1 Samuel 17
- Psalm 23 (cf. Psalm 51 and 2 Samuel 7)
- 2 Kings 5
- Isaiah 9:1-7 (cf. Isaiah 11, 40, 50, 53, 55, 60)
- Daniel 6
- Jonah 1-4 and Hebrews 1:1-2
- Ezra 7 (cf. Nehemiah 8-10 and Malachi 1, 3-4)
- Luke 1-2
- Luke 2 (again!)
- Matthew 2
Spend time intentionally
Spend time with the people closest to you on purpose. For example, in our house, we have a loose calendar1 of special activities to do almost every day of December. The point isn’t doing more, but to signal the season by doing differently.
Instead of turning on the Wii on the weekend, we can take a walk to enjoy neighborhood lights. It’s this intentional difference of activity that can help to shake us out of our cultural sleepwalking and – in conjunction with the purposeful Bible reading above – can help us to turn our minds to the utter miracle of God made human. When our kids ask, “Why are we taking treats to the neighbors?” we can say, “Giving and receiving gifts reminds us of the greatest gift.” When we eat treats ourselves (which we most certainly will), we can teach, “you think hot chocolate and cookies are great? God with us is vastly better than anything else.”
Advent reminds us that the best is yet to come.
- Here’s the calendar my wife put together for us: ↶