The Christmas season is upon us. My daughter and I were at our neighborhood drugstore the day before Halloween, and the employees were already pulling the orange and black decorations off the shelves and replacing them with Christmas garlands and Santa paraphernalia. As we walked past them, my sweet girl ooohhhed and aaahhhed over the candy canes and twinkling lights, but I felt a pit of dread in my stomach—another Christmas season, another couple of months of attempting to find that weird balance between creating a magical, memorable holiday for my family while teaching my children the reason for Christmas—the birth of our Savior.
For 2 months a year (when did the Christmas season become so long?!), we live in this bizarre crossroads of celebration and acknowledgment of our total depravity, for without our depraved conditions, we would not be in need of a Messiah, and without our need for a Messiah, we wouldn’t have Christmas, and without Christmas, we wouldn’t have the fun and joy and merriment that accompanies it each year. But I find, every single year, that focusing on the merriment is too easy. Christmas Day arrives, and upon examining my heart, I realize that another year has passed that I’ve allowed my heart to breeze through Advent without truly engaging in the spiritual aspect of the season; I’ve ignored the calling on my soul to ponder and reflect not only the meaning of Christmas, but all its implications and glory.
In the days of Christmas Letdown that follow, as I put away the tree and say goodbye to the decorations, as we toss out the last of the leftovers and write our thank-you notes, I evaluate the success of the holiday in my own mind and how I can improve it the next year. Oh, sure, maybe I can try making a different pie or spend less time watching Christmas movies and more time reading Christmas books with the children, but what really niggles at me is how I can change the ways my heart has engaged with the Advent season. Every year I wrestle with this and ask friends what they do. I think, Next year I’ll figure something out—I’ll pray about it and start planning sooner and Christmas won’t creep up on me.
I realize there is no magic potion for engaging your heart and having a particularly spiritually meaningful Christmas, but I think the first step is realizing that I have to be intentional and I have to carve out the time to make the effort to come before the Lord regularly to spend time with him. My biggest issue, and the one that intimidates me from making this time in the first place, is how to focus my time with Jesus. For years I’ve been on the search for something to help me in this—I’ve read numerous books and tried several devotionals, but not until this year have I found something that answers the call of my heart in Advent: Paul David Tripp’s new Advent devotional, Come, Let Us Adore Him.
If you’re familiar with Tripp’s devotional New Morning Mercies, then you might already be a fan of how he draws the reader in with his use of simple but profound language; Come, Let Us Adore Him is no different. Each reading is 3-4 pages long, and Tripp uses personal stories and conversational language to discuss each day’s scripture—it feels less like a pastor or counselor talking to me and more like a coffee date with a friend. Tripp actually references the readings as “meditations” in the introduction, and I’d have to agree. A master of catching the attention of his readers, he gently engages my heart and gifts me with things to ponder throughout the day.
Each reading is based on 3 tweets that Tripp tweeted one year that he dedicated his December tweets to the Christmas story (if you don’t follow him on Twitter, you’re missing out!). They start with a brief Scripture passage, Tripp’s reflections, scripture for further study, and then a section for parents to use to engage their children in the day’s reading: a central theme and prompts for discussion. This last part is extra exciting to me because it enables the entire family to meditate on the same truths each day. And to be honest, it also helps me focus my own thoughts. My children are 4 and 5, and I can easily adapt the discussion to their age level.
In Tripp’s own words in the introduction he says, …I wrote this devotional with the prayer that God would use it to recapture your attention. I wrote it with hope that this amazing story would reactivate your awe… If you’re like me, this is exactly what you need. What a gift this devotional is—I highly recommend it for your weary hearts this Advent.