I saw the first Christmas trees set up in Costco — the first day of October.
The twinkling lights and colors and aura of the season bring mixed emotions to many of us. For some, pure excitement. I love this season! It’s as if we can’t wait for the first flurry of snow, the first glimpse of greenery and lights, the first excuse to pull out our Christmas albums.
Growing up, we spent several Christmases at the Glen Eyrie Pink House where my grandparents were hosts (on the Navigators’ headquarter grounds complete with a historic castle). I was only a kid, and hardly knew what a privilege this was — to have the entire retreat center just to our family. We would beg to explore the gated rose garden, climb the circular stairs to the loft (there was even a Narnia wardrobe up there!), or, best of all, follow my grandpa up the winding steps to the castle turrets, where we could look out on the neighboring Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs and beyond.
Christmas at the Pink House was like a Thomas Kinkade painting come alive. We would wake up to the flurry of snowflakes outside of our antique windows and hurry out to sled, or build snowmen, or watch the wild turkeys wander, or have a tea party with my grandma, or pretend to be ballerinas in the spacious Great Room. I spent hours propped up on the baby grand piano bench, studying the tiny figures of the miniature Christmas village, complete with miniscule Christmas lights and ice skaters no larger than my little finger.
Those are fond memories — the ones I forever hold and sometimes, close my eyes and transport myself back to. But life marches on, and the wonder of childhood gets easily replaced by the brokenness of this world or the matter-of-factness of adult life.
For others, we wince when we see lights strung and hear the first strands of Silent Night. Perhaps Christmases in the past were hard ones, fraught with the loss of loved ones, or broken relationships, or depression. Going to church feels empty, as the sermons and songs fade into the same carols, the same stories we’ve always heard, but fail to meet us where we’re hurting. The cheer of Christmas doesn’t match the notes of our own hearts, so we outwardly put on a smile but inwardly dread the season.
However you feel at this onset of this advent season, I’m beckoning you to stop the hurriedness of this season and reflect. Advent, the forty days or so leading up to Christmas, has been practiced for centuries of the church as a season of anticipation, reflection, and longing. It’s designed to meet us in our pain — and our joy— and match those deep feelings of the soul with the longing for a Messiah, much like the children of Israel’s four hundred years of silence broken finally by John the Baptist’s “Behold the Lamb.” Like them, we look around us at a broken world and look within at the brokenness of our hearts and long for deliverance, holding onto the scattered promises of His coming.
Resolve now not to enter the trap door of this world’s escapism, numbing the pain and reality of life with holiday cheer and materialism. Instead, endeavor to take this advent season to embrace the only salve that will truly heal your soul and bring deep joy, the very purpose of Christmas itself: the gospel.
endeavor to take this advent season to embrace the only salve that will truly heal your soul and bring deep joy, the very purpose of Christmas itself: the gospel.
This advent, I’ll be posting daily devotionals on my blog. My encouragement is to take these short meditations on the meaning of Christmas as a catalyst to reflect and meditate on the state of your own heart this season. You can check daily on Facebook or Instagram (@jesusfollower4life) for morning posts or subscribe to get them each morning in your inbox.
I’m so excited to have you join me in this journey!