Each year, when December comes around, I immediately feel an unprecedented pressure to have a “perfect” Christmas. If I am not careful, I quickly set my hopes on the festivities of the season and miss out on savoring Jesus. When plans don’t happen exactly how I had hoped, or when I don’t get the fuzzy feelings I longed for, I am often left disappointed on December 26th. When I enter this season without preparing my heart to celebrate Jesus, I find myself completely missing Him amongst the busyness, schedules, and activities.
A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of Advent and its purpose in preparing our hearts for Christmas. Advent has long been a pattern of the church to intentionally set aside time to prepare our hearts for Christmas and remember all that God has done for us through Jesus. It’s purpose is to impress in our hearts an awareness of God’s grace in sending Christ, His Son, to be born in the likeness of man and die a substitutionary death in our place. Advent essentially causes us to pause and praise our King. This practice is an incredible gift in our busy culture. However, if we approach Advent with a “doer” mentality or as something else to check off our list, we have missed the point.
I have spent far too many Decembers getting caught up in all the “to-dos” of the season that I missed celebrating Jesus in the midst of it all. You probably know exactly what it feels like to have a calendar that is bursting at the seams, lists that are never-ending, and the desire to do it all in order to truly celebrate this season. With a plethora of Advent devotionals, countdown Christmas calendars, books to read, and daily activities to participate in, it can be easy to take our focus off of Christ and place it on what we do to celebrate the season. The past few years I’ve come to December with my “must-do” list that I have conjured up (often with the help of Pinterest and various blogs) in order to have a “perfect” Advent season. The problem comes in when my heart starts worshipping lists, activities, and decorations more than I worship Jesus.
For the woman who tends toward being an overachiever (like myself), Pinterest and Instagram can be our worst enemy in this season! There are countless ways we can celebrate Christmas and participate in Advent activities and readings, but it is impossible to do everything. I know my own heart tends towards the “doer” mentality in my Christian walk, but over and over in Scripture I am reminded that it’s not about what I do that brings me satisfaction, it’s about what Christ has done. My actions should flow the directly from the cross. When I put my hope in a “perfect” Advent and Christmas, I am let down. When I place my hope in my perfect Savior, I am set free.
There will be moments that will disappoint in this season, days you might miss your Advent readings, times when plans just don’t look like you hoped they would, and mornings when you wake up with complaints rather than praises. During this season, we have to keep at the forefront of our minds and hearts that true worship is fostered by preaching the gospel to our hearts and reminding ourselves that apart from Jesus, we are nothing. Each December, we come to remember and worship our perfect Savior who was born in a humble manger, died on a splintered cross made of wood, and rose again as the King and Conqueror of death. It’s all about what HE did, not what we could ever do.
That’s the purpose of Advent, friends. It’s not about checking off a to-do list, making gingerbread houses, seeing Christmas lights, drinking from a Starbucks red cup, hosting holiday parties, hanging decorations, wrapping presents, sitting by crackling fires, or making hot cocoa. All of those things are gifts of God’s grace to us and ways that we can worship Him, but ultimately they aren’t the purpose for this season. If you miss making a gingerbread house this year, you haven’t missed Christmas. Sometimes we simply need to step back and take a long look at the cross to see that we have permission that we don’t have to do it “all”. Remember, it’s not about what you do, it’s about all that He has already done.
If you are feeling the “Christmas pressure” to do it “all”, release all your “must-do’s” before the manger and simply adore Jesus as you go. If you build a gingerbread house with your children, put together each piece knowing Jesus holds you together and laugh hard, enjoying the moment for His glory. As you drive around listening to Christmas music and admiring Christmas lights, remember that Jesus is the light of the world and that He has gifted you with these small, surreal moments on earth to point to the glory of Heaven to come. As you drink from your red cup, remember that Jesus gives us living water so that we never have to thirst again. It’s not about what we do, but we can certainly worship our Savior as we celebrate Advent.
Remember, you don’t have to do it “all”, because He already did it all. Celebrate Advent for His glory, but remember that it’s ultimately about our Savior. Walk with Him, talk with Him, and come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.