Are you already preparing for Christmas. Probably so. It seems to start earlier every year. I well remember a few years back when I took Bobby to Cracker Barrel for lunch on his birthday. As we checked out I noticed that they already had three Christmas trees up on one side of the room. I turned to Bobby and said “Look, you have a holiday birthday!” He was born on August 22nd.
So, no, you don’t have to start that early. But for about fifteen centuries, more or less, there has been a run-up to Christmas: Advent. Advent is simply a number of weeks that look forward to the first coming of the Messiah, the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ. In recent decades this has more or less settled out at four weeks – the first Sunday of Advent is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year that will be November 27th.
By the way, in previous centuries Advent also looked forward to the second coming of Christ (which is the same thing our Christmas series is doing). Here’s a short article detailing that history: The History of Advent.
If you’d like to invest a little time in Advent, I’m recommending two Advent devotional books, two Advent reading plans and two Advent playlists. I hope these help you focus your heart and mind in these busy weeks on the wonder of the incarnation.
Many, many good devotional books have been written for Advent, many of them for daily use during the season.
This year Gail and I are planning to use Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp. We like Tripp’s commitment to the power of grace to change lives, and we’re looking forward to these daily devotional readings.
One that we did a few years ago was Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. Some of you are familiar with Andrew Peterson’s Christmas album by the same name. Ramsey doesn’t directly interact with the album, but provides 25 readings that tell the Christmas story in narrative form.
If you have the Bible app on your phone (also known as YouVersion) you’ll know that a key feature is reading plans. These range from 4 days to a full year, but during Advent it’s easy to find either a four week plan or a twenty five day plan for Advent. Here’s the one I’m planning to do this year, and the one I did last year:
Emmanuel: God with Us, an Advent Devotional. This one is from an organization called Hope International. The devotions focus on the truth of God’s presence, and seem pretty substantive. I’m looking forward to it.
Advent Reflections. This one is from the Bible Project and the devotionals include some of their great videos. I did this last year and enjoyed it.
I’ve always really liked Christmas music (and winter music), but I’m not really into 53 versions of even the best Christmas carols. I like something with a little originality, or a well known Carol done in an evocative style. So each year I make a playlist of some of my favorites. This also includes instrumentals that are just wintery to my ear.
The two playlists are on YouTube (most of them lyric videos): Advent 2022
And Spotify (audio): Advent 2022
Enjoy! And may you and I grow closer to the Incarnate one this Christmas.