Perspectives

Advent Preparation: Embracing the story behind Christmas

The holiday season can seem every bit as chaotic, random and thrown together as the play-lists of those obnoxious 24/7 Christmas music stations. Going from Black Friday to church pageants to being frisked by the TSA as we travel to sometimes awkward family gatherings strangely resembles going from the materialism of “Santa Baby,” to the light spirituality of “The Little Drummer Boy,” to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” concluding with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

And we end up feeling like Charlie Brown screaming at Linus, “Can’t anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”

So what do we do? Well, one important thing is to remember what Eric Metaxas reminded us, that it’s not really Christmas season—it’s Advent season, a time set aside by the church to help believers prepare to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.

And it’s not just in remembrance of His incarnation, coming to Bethlehem as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, but also in anticipation of His return as the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” who will “send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26-27).

Over the past few years, walking through this season of Advent in prayer, scripture and devotional readings has been a huge blessing to my family, my church, and to me personally.

Another thing that has really helped me is studying just how big this Christmas story is. Behind all the gifts, the carols, nativity scenes, and dinner parties is a narrative that spans from the creation of the heavens and earth to the re-creation of the heavens and earth.

Here’s what I mean: All those characters we remember in the Christmas story—Mary, the Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels, Joseph, Zachariah, Elizabeth, Simeon—they all have something in common. They identified what was happening to them as being firmly rooted in the promises of God—promises to His people detailed in the Old Testament. Thinking like they did—that behind all of the noise and chaos of this time of year is a story being unfolded—has changed almost everything about how I approach Advent and Christmas.

One resource I go back to over and over again to remind myself of this is Michael Card’s incredible CD “The Promise.” Rather than just picking eight to ten Christmas carols he liked and re-singing them, Michael’s CD beautifully takes us in song on the journey from the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus through the specifics of the details in the nativity, to the establishment of Jesus on the throne of David as the ruler of all things.

And this Advent, let’s look beyond all the glitzy schmaltziness of our culture’s celebration of the holidays, and see the grand story behind Christmas, and prepare ourselves to celebrate the bedrock truth of our faith and the reason for our hope: Christ has come, and He shall come again.

John Stonestreet

 

— John Stonestreet

Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint, a radio commentary that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million. Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries

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