C.S. Lewis talked about how Christians have different ways of describing Christ forgiving our sins in his book Mere Christianity. He said “You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb….They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does” (p 182).
If I were to name a writer who lives this truth, it would be Traci. She has a way of writing about some of the different “formulas” that in the end, bring you closer to Christ and understanding his Word. Traci has a way of seeing how God uses his church and his body to minister to others. Instead of turning away from something that seems different, Traci embraces it to grow closer to Christ. She sees God working through his people and ultimately, brings His revelation through her to her readers.
And that is something special.
She sat across from me at the table, casually discussing holiday plans. Family get togethers, last minute shopping, planning a menu. All of the typical things we women do to make sure our families have meaningful traditions and, ultimately, memories. Then, she said,
“I wish there was a way to help me focus more on Jesus during this time. I want my holidays to be more about him.”
My response came instinctively, which shows how far I’ve come. You see, five years ago I wouldn’t have known what to tell her. Likely, I would have listened politely, and nodded my head in agreement. Here’s how I responded,
“There are ways to better focus on him during the holidays! Times of preparation that lead up to the actual holidays, which often last more than one day too. It’s all in the church calendar.”
I didn’t say any more than that, but I hoped it peaked her interest. You don’t have to be Catholic, or any denomination that practices high liturgy to practice these seasons of preparation. Advent. Lent. Ordinary Time. Just as God did for the Israelites in the Old Testament, he’s built feasts and festivals and fasts into our yearly calendar to help us right our focus on him.
He reminds us again and again, we don’t have to practice our faith alone.
The church year actually starts with Advent, which begins on Sunday, December 3rd this year. It always begins four Sunday prior to Christmas (or Christmastide if you really do your church calendar research).
Up until about five years ago, the only thing I knew about Advent was that some of the churches I’d attended would put a wreath on the stage with five candles in it. They’d invite individuals or a family up each Sunday to light one of the candles and do a short reading. All very nice, but it didn’t mean a lot to me when I did nothing else for Advent the other six days of the week.
For our family, it started when our daughter was a toddler. Isn’t that the way of things? We’re willing to try something new if it enriches our children’s experiences. I found an Advent calendar in the shape of a house on clearance after the holiday season at Target. The following year, I filled it with candy and tiny trinkets. Wanting to make sure I included the Christmas story in our Advent time each day, I wrote a brief summary of the story, breaking it into 25 days of reading. Then, on Christmas morning, she would open the last Advent door and we’d sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
The first few years, I read the blurbs to her each day. Once she could read, I let her take over. Starting in 3rd grade, she began looking up the verses pointing to each day’s story in the Bible on her own. Every morning of Advent, she jumps out of bed, rushing to the table for that day’s reading. I realize it’s as much for the surprise treat, but it gets her in the word every day.
It prepares her heart for a Christmas morning that I want to be about Jesus, not just a bunch of presents. I’ve tried to graduate her from these simple readings I prepared years ago into maybe a devotional, but no, apparently the simple phrases she was introduced to as a toddler are part of the tradition too. Just the other day, she asked me if we could start Advent early.
The past few years, I’ve added other elements to our observance of Advent. For myself, I find a new devotional to read during this season. There are a ton of great choices! I’ve also started collecting picture books that teach children about Advent, this unique season of waiting for his coming. Each one is truly beautiful.
Last year, we added an Advent wreath to our table, complete with five candles. It’s a simple round wooden wreath my husband cut from a downed tree on our property. Together, as a whole family, we read a prayer each Sunday evening, and light the next candle. This from a family who doesn’t do family devotions together! I’m excited to see where this tradition might lead us.
Tis the season – for a season before the season. If you don’t already participate in Advent, I hope you’ll look into it. We’re given several weeks to start preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We have an alternative to the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Thank you, church!
My name is Traci. I live in southwest Michigan, somewhere in a triangular section connecting Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids with all things Lake Michigan. My husband and I parent one daughter. We have dogs, cats, ducks, pigs and chickens. Their number is always changing, as farm animal counts tend to do. I enjoy watching sports, reading, cooking and all things Bible study. I am a writer. When I first started blogging, I wondered about what unique voice I could bring. I’ve landed on this one line: A country girl goes to church.