Friday, November 30, 2012

The Main Thing

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Or so the song says anyway.

It's not even December yet and I can already feel that pull toward becoming frustrated, overwhelmed, and uptight and away from the excitement, wonder, and meaning of the Christmas season.

I don't even mean for it to happen. But things have been busy—with a huge event at work, quick vacation tagged on at the end of a work trip, traveling for Thanksgiving, trying to get back in the swing of things, getting home at 10 every night this week. When I try to sit down and make plans for celebrating Christmas with all of our families (six Christmases total!), pick out a Christmas card, buy gifts, design a new wrapping paper scheme, locate recipes for favorite treats, etc. ... well ... it can quickly move from fun to exhausting.

Do you feel it too? Somebody please say you do!

While there are things that we obviously have to do in the next few weeks and there are tons of things that we want to do, I want—no, I need!— to make sure that I am intentionally making time each day to reflect, study, and remember the reason for this joyous season in the first place.

Christmas has nothing to do with shopping, cookies, spending lots of money, Santa, decorations, or Pinterest-inspired crafts and everything to do with the birth of a Savior, grace, salvation, redemption.

I found a few incredible (and free!) resources earlier this week to help our family spend time each day in December making the main thing the main thing. I pray these resources will help us to rest in the miraculous work of Christ instead of getting caught up in the frenzy.

How do you stay focused on Christ during the Christmas season?

The Expected One
The Church at Brook Hills
download here

“He’s coming!” This shout of anticipation is the heart of Advent, a time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. These weeks leading up to Christmas day are a special time of reflection on God’s gift to us: the child Jesus. Rejoicing in Jesus’ birth certainly brings glory to God, but sometimes during this season we can forget that God didn’t just send a child into the world; he sent a mighty Rescuer! During Advent, as we celebrate the first coming of The Expected One, let’s also look forward in hopeful anticipation of his second coming. Let’s keep in mind the whole picture of who Jesus is, worshiping him as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to us.

This Guide is primarily designed for families, but we truly think that anyone wanting to meditate deeply on Christ will find it helpful. Each day has a passage accompanied by a brief explanation, as well as some “Review & Reflect” questions to help foster thought and conversation. However you use it, it is our prayer that this Advent season will be a time of rich, gospel-centered reflection for you and your family as you make much of Christ.

Good News of Great Joy
by John Piper
download here

Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent is designed especially for Advent 2012. With readings beginning Sunday, December 2, and going through Christmas Day, this book of Advent devotionals aims to put Jesus at the center of your holiday season. These short meditations are excerpted from the ministry of John Piper and correspond to the daily readings in Desiring God's free devotional app called Solid Joys (available in the iTunes store).

A Jesus Advent Celebration: Jesse Tree Journey
by Ann Voskamp
download here

Each of the 27 days of the Jesse Tree Family Devotional journey includes: (There are 27 days of devotionals — so begin the last week of November — so that you finish up by December 25th!)
  • The full Bible text of the day’s reading. Readings are selected to begin in Genesis and cover significant events throughout the Old Testament — each story pointing to the coming Messiah. It’s like an overview of the whole span of His Story — leading right up to the climax of the coming Christ!
  • A devotional read-aloud for the whole family – engaging enough (we pray!) for young children and yet meaty enough for teens and adults. Each reflection endeavors to not only highlight an important scene from God’s epic in time, but to always unwrap more of Jesus, the gift hidden in every story.
  • A short, simple action point for the day– “Unwrapping more of His love in the World” — a way to do something together as a family that not only invites the coming Kingdom of God and Jesus’ love into your home and community, but is an opportunity to apply and live out the day’s devotional. It’s like an Advent Calendar that gives back – becoming more like the gift Himself!
  • A free full color ornament, illustrated by Nancy Rodden and used with permission, to hang on your own Jesse Tree. The very last pages of the book include all of the ornaments in over several pages so you can easily cut each ornament out and creatively mount to your own preferences.
  • Black & white Coloring ornaments, if your children choose to color ornaments, while you read the devotional.

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