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'There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord....In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples-of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious."
Isaiah 11:1, 10
I love Christmas time. Donned as the 'most wonderful time of the year,' we see that played out everywhere around us as December approaches. It is a time of joy, celebration, giving, and anticipation. As a parent, I anticipate the look of joy on my children’s faces as they open gifts under the tree. I revel in the excitement of stuffing stockings, baking goodies, and gathering with friends and family. But as much as I love all of these things about the Christmas season, there is nothing I love more than recognizing it as a season of Advent.
Growing up, we didn't celebrate Advent. It wasn't a word that I heard or celebrated until I became an adult. Now that I know what Advent is, it has become a favorite time during the holiday season.
Advent comes from a Latin translation meaning 'coming.' It is the act of waiting for the arrival of our Savior. The Israelites first waited for their promised King, and He showed up as a baby. Now, we wait for our coming King a second time, yet this time He will not show up humbly, but fiercely. So what exactly is Advent, and how do we celebrate it?
Advent lasts for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas day. The most common celebration is to place four candles within a wreath and light each one on Sunday. The candles represent hope, faith, peace, and joy. The wreath represents God's eternal love for us that will never be broken. The evergreen branches represent the new life we have with Christ, as well as signifying that Christ is the tree, and we are the branches. The candles represent the darkness that is being defeated as we approach the second coming of Christ. The act of doing this each Sunday causes us to slow down and remember the miracle of Christ.
Every year, Christmas seems to become more stressful and busy than the last. With so many gifts to buy, parties to attend, checklists to accomplish, we feel overwhelmed and oftentimes wish the holiday season was behind us. We know 'the reason for the season' and set out our Nativity set, yet we don't allow the weight or the gravity of Christ's birth to fully encompass our hearts.
We string lights on our roofs and hang tinsel in our tree, yet forget that the God who breathed the stars in the sky became a baby. Like the brightest star streaming through the galaxy, He came to earth in a tiny stable. While He held planets in the palm of His hands, He became a baby who needed warmth and comfort from the very world He created. It is the most magnificent story we could ever dream of. And it was all part of God's plan before the beginning of time.
Before we could ever dream up eternity or even tomorrow, God had a radical rescue plan for our salvation. And it didn't start with a magnificent King in a palace with trumpets, but a baby with hay, sheep, and cows. This God of the universe stepped down to BE with us. ‘Emmanuel,’ God With Us. And yet if we don't take the time to stop this Christmas season, we will have missed it.
We will come to Christmas morning with neatly wrapped packages under a tree waiting to be opened, with anticipation of good gifts. Yet we will have missed the greatest gift ever given.
You see, the Christmas story starts with a tree. There are many trees woven throughout the story, but we tend to overlook them all and go straight to our tree we adorn with ornaments and lights. If we aren't careful, we will decorate the tree in our home and leave the tree in our hearts barren and branches broken.
We read about the branch that will shoot forth from the stump of David; this Messiah that will come from a lineage of people you wouldn’t think would be part of Emmanuel’s family tree. We celebrate Bible stories from prophets that foretell the arrival of the Servant, come to deliver first the Israelites and now us. This is the second Advent, of waiting for His return. He came in the exodus and He comes again, but only for those who have made room for Him. Just like Mary and Joseph searching in Bethlehem for a place to bring Him into this world, all of the rooms were full. No one had any room for the coming King. Let us not be the same this Christmas, busying ourselves with pretty packaging, decorated cookies, and travel plans. Let us have an open door to our heart; a place prepared to welcome the King of Glory.
This Advent season, prepare your heart for the arrival of Christ. He is the miracle of this season. He is the twinkling lights, beautiful bows, the garland on the mantle, the best gift. He too, gave us a gift under a tree. Christ suffered a death so that you and I could unwrap the gift of salvation. At the foot of the cross we find redemption, a gift bought with His own life. The best part of the Christmas season is that we all have the chance to unwrap this gift. A gift bought with a heavy price, yet so freely given.
Is the manger of your heart prepared for Christ this Advent season? Have you spent all of your effort on the outside ‘stuff’ while neglecting to pause and ponder on Emmanuel? Do you see Him in the magic of this time? Have you stopped to listen to the bells ring, smell the evergreen, feel the icy wind and KNOW that is Jesus calling you to Him? No gift we wrap, no song we sing, no time we spend, can ever compare to the Christmas story God wrote for us thousands of years ago.
Jesus is our new life, ladder back to God, banner of salvation, morning star, and greatest gift.
The Manger of My Heart
This Advent, Lord, come to the manger of my heart. Fill me with Your presence from the very start.As I prepare for the holidays and gifts to be given,Remind me of the gift You gave when You sent your Son from Heaven.The first Christmas gift, if was the greatest gift ever......
This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.Dwell within and around me, as I unwrap Your presence each day.Keep me close to You Lord. It’s in Your wonderful name I pray.
Your fellow Able Mom,
Lord, thank you for the gift of Christmas. I pray that this season we would linger in your love and the hope and joy of Advent. May our hearts be pointed towards You and Your good promises. Help us not to focus on the external, but the internal and how that changes every aspect of our lives. Help us to share your light with others this season.
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