Christmas Countdown - AKA Advent
It’s December 1 and a new season is upon us: Advent! Even in the non-Christian world, I’ve noticed that Advent is beginning to gain traction as a fun way to count down the days until Christmas. One golfer I follow on social media releases a new golf tip on his podcast every day in December. One musician I follow is highlighting a different holiday song each day until the 25th. While golf and holiday jams are – at best – a superficial way to celebrate the holidays, these countdowns do tap into a practice that helps us remember, treasure, and anticipate what’s coming.
Traditional Christian Advent calendars usually show 25 days, each day with a little door, the last of which opens on Christmas Day. This 25-step countdown is a good thing to do! Whether it’s revealing what’s behind a little door, or opening a little package, or reading a selection in a set of 25, I strongly recommend that you and your family find a way to stop, pause, and mark each day of the month as we approach the day of Jesus’ arrival. Dinnertime or bedtime is a great time to try this out!
The last several years, I’ve been reading a daily selection from a beautiful little book called “All Creation Waits” by Gayle Boss which investigates how 25 different creatures change their behavior as they prepare for the short, dark days of winter. Unlike most plants and animals who start to hunker down this time of year, we humans tend to work overtime and schedule exams. No wonder we often feel stressed as the holidays approach. This little book is teaching me to slow down, breathe, and wait for Jesus with more intention.
Waiting for Jesus is what Advent is all about. That’s why countdowns and calendars are just the thing. Marking the days and the times so deliberately helps us feel the bright energy of anticipation. My favorite translation of the word “Advent” is this: “It’s Coming!” Or to make it more Jesus specific, “He’s coming!” Counting down helps Christians remember that Jesus came from heaven to earth as a baby born in Bethlehem. Counting down helps us remember that Jesus can increasingly be born in our hearts still today. And counting down helps us remember that Jesus is coming again, we just don’t know the number on that one yet!
In Sunday morning worship we’ll be doing a couple of different countdowns as well.
First off, we’ll be lighting Advent Candles each of the four Sundays between now and December 25. The center candle, or Christ candle, will be lit at the culmination of worship on Christmas Eve. If you have a young child, be sure to keep track of the counting week by week!
Secondly, the messages preached in December will be centered around the Bible’s Top 5 Christmas songs (did you ever notice how much singing happened around Jesus’ birth?). These songs are not our traditional English language Christmas Carols, but are ones contained in Scripture: The song of Isaiah the prophet, the song of Mary, the song of Zechariah, the song of the Angels over Bethlehem, and the song of Simeon the priest.
I trust that the counting we do at home and at church will help us feel the bright energy of anticipation that God really is coming to us. Holiday blessings to you as you do just that.