Advent has begun, and maybe 30% of us were well-stocked and prepared before the Thanksgiving turkey cooled. Well done.
For the remaining 70%, this is for you. There’s a great abundance of resources to make it easier to receive a grace-filled Advent this year. And that is what we do: receive it. You may make cookies, buy presents, perform in a choir, organize kids’ costumes, but you cannot actually produce Christmas. All any of us can really do is receive this Baby, this Word Made Chubby Cheeks Flesh.
You are invited to kneel at a feeding trough, to oddly enough have a baby soothe and comfort you.
So follow these links below: sit, rest, take comfort, be fed. It is the glorious season to receive all that you don’t have.
1.This Daily Text post from J.D. Walt is a great way to examine not so much your heart as your thoughts before you engage in present-wrapping and cookie exchanges. Our world-weary minds struggle to process the pain and destruction in our world and our neighborhoods. Before you can put on Christmas cheer, you must shed the heavy burden of sour cynicism.
2.First things second: before you dive into a great devotional, consider this fantastic Advent 2015 reading challenge. Compared to Star Wars fans binging on movie marathons to prepare for the new film release, this reading challenge offers a simple plan to read through the New Testament during Advent. If you believe you’re too busy, the author challenges you to realistically consider your daily time watching television or Facebook scrolling before you claim you don’t have enough time!
3.A Christmas guide to family worship offers simple ideas to engage your family in the beauty of Advent aside from your Santa or “Elf on the Shelf” rituals. Kids of all ages can step into the story of the Incarnation through Scripture reading and Advent prayers.
4.What a profound family gift: a few years ago One Thousand Gifts author Ann Voskamp wrote about a simple item her son made: a spiraling wooden wreath that a Mary-bearing donkey moved along with a candle through the season of Advent. This procession towards the cradle offers a tangible march towards Christmas in a way similar to Advent calendars. With an extension, it then marks the path through Lent with a candle and Christ carrying the cross.
5.”Let’s joyfully embrace the fact that we will do Advent in the midst of a culture that loves Christmas but doesn’t really understand it. When the church reclaims Advent, the culture will behold Christmas.” With this challenge to redefine your approach to the Christmas season, pick up J.D. Walt’s 25-day reader, Not Yet Christmas: It’s Time for Advent. You can read this on your own, with friends or in your congregational groups.
6.Artist and professor Daniel Swartz has created a great free printable craft for anyone to cut out and use this Christmas, whether you’re a student far from home, a parent of young kids, a Sunday School teacher or a grandparent with wee ones scheduled to visit. His distinctive style has engaged kids before in Wesleyan Publishing House products. Stock your printer with fresh ink, grab some cardstock and scissors and give little hands the chance to play with their o
wn nativity pieces.
7. This free downloadable Advent series, LOVE Revealed, will save your bacon if you find yourself in need of some resources last minute. From the Wesleyan Publishing House, it includes sermon ideas, group lessons for kids, youth and adults, responsive readings and devotionals. Download today!
8. If you really want to dive deep, download this free collection of 12 Christmas Sermons from mothers and fathers throughout church history. Read what St. Augustine, John Donne, Fanny Crosby, St. Bridget of Sweden, Charles Wesley and more guiding voices had to say about this sacred season.
9. Craft some creative gift tags or place cards or print and frame these free gorgeous printables and framables from Ann Voskamp, including Scripture verses, daily meditational inspirations and beautiful gratitude templates. Place them around your own home to draw your eyes where you wish to focus this season or share them as almost cost-free gifts.
10. Surprise! Here’s an extra stocking stuffer. Sit, sip, and listen. Light up the tree, put up your feet and allow Jean Watson and her Celtic folk vocals to walk you to the manger in her Christmas album artfully rendered with the inimitable Phil Keaggy, Christmas: Not the Way It Seems.[youtube id=”w9nKkWS6H3o”]