Growing up, my home was magical at Christmas time. My mom had a real gift for hospitality and decorating, and my dad absolutely loved everything about Christmas. We always had two Christmas trees, a tall one in our living room arrayed in Victorian splendor and soft white lights, and one in my dad's study decked out in colorful lights and old-fashioned toys. One year my dad kept his toy tree up all year and lit it every single night! He loved the sights, smells and sounds of Christmas. My dad passed away ten years ago, but I can still close my eyes and hear him crooning along to Christmas songs played on the record player. They did Christmas well, and the true celebration of the birth of Christ shone through in all the family traditions that I loved so much.
One of my favorite traditions we celebrated was advent. We didn't belong to a denomination that focused on the church calendar particularly, so we did advent our own way -- using it as a time to focus our hearts on Christ and prepare us for the busy holiday season. We never had a specific scripture study that went with each candle, we just lit a new candle each Sunday leading up to the final candle, the Christ candle, when we would light it and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. I loved the simplicity of it. Our advent wreath was always one of the first decorations that was lugged down from the attic and placed in a prominent position on the dining room table. I'm not sure where my parents got our advent wreath, but it was beautiful. It was a rich wooden wreath with a place for four taper candles and a fifth candle standing a little taller in the center. Mom usually draped an evergreen garland around the middle candle. It was simple and elegant.
I wish I could say that I carried on those beautiful Christmas memories into my own home when I got married and we began having children, but for some reason I didn't. Our first couple of Christmases I tried. I really tried. But somewhere along the way I found myself frustrated with the whole Christmas gig in general. I was so busy trying to make it perfect and make sure I was establishing traditions that I forgot the simple joy. I forgot that the simplicity of pointing my children to Christ was the best tradition I could ever give them. My husband and I discussed some of my frustrations and we decided to purposely reclaim the celebration of Christ. It completely turned Christmas around for me. It added a layer of worship to our holidays that I had been missing.
Over the next three weeks I plan on highlighting some of our favorite traditions. We have some that are really fun and I can't wait to share them with you. This week is our advent wreath. Unfortunately, in one of our moves, the beautiful wooden advent wreath from my childhood, that my parents had lovingly gifted to us as our family began to grow, got broken beyond repair. I've never been able to find one that looks similar to it, so I just got some simple supplies and made our own. When I say simple, I mean very simple!! From Wal-Mart I bought an inexpensive evergreen wreath, four white pillar candles, and one red taller pillar candle. See?! I told you it was simple! I put the wreath flat on the table and on the inside of the wreath arranged the four white candles with the taller red candle standing in the middle of the white ones. Every morning over the breakfast table we light the week's candle and read a few verses. I've been using a guide from shereadstruth.com that I've really been blessed by . It's designed as a woman's Bible study, but I've enjoyed the particular scriptures they've used and the insights from the authors. At night around the dinner table we relight the candle and discuss the theme and verses of the day. It's simple and that's why I love it! The visual of the candles, flames dancing to the Word of God; the activity of lighting them, each child excited about his or her turn to light it; the sweet, airy aroma of vanilla wafting off the lit candle and the smell that comes from blowing it out, knowing with anticipation and excitement that in just a little bit that candle will be lit again.
As these next few weeks leading up to Christmas begin to rush by us, day after day, take a moment, take two maybe, and pause to reflect on this truth -- Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15). Let that truth wash over you today. Whether you use an advent wreath or not, whether you struggle with the busy holiday times or relish in them, whether you have a dozen Christmas traditions or you're striving to carve out something to be meaningful for your family, remember that Jesus came to save sinners. He came to save us.
This is the truth of advent. The hope of Christmas. The story of grace.
Hey there! I'm Pam and I'm sure glad you're here.