This year’s Advent Reading plan looks at the spiritual meaning of Christmas and I’m so glad you’re here for it! Because by setting our intentions here, we’ll soak up the blessings of God. It sounds simple right? But how many Christmases of promising all that’s holy to cease the hustle does it really take? Why does the striving for hope, peace, joy, and love continue? When will we fully understand the gift of Christmas and just bask in the fullness of those blessings, which were generously gifted, thus checked off our list by God?
As I was planning this year’s Advent focus for our Holistic Faith community, I was tempted to go with “do nothing Christmas” or “shake it off Christmas” or even “throw off all that entangles Christmas“, but none of those really flow. And even though they underscore my point of minimizing effort and holding strong boundaries, they fall very short of connecting with the spiritual meaning of Christmas.
We don’t have to work our buns off creating the perfect Christmas. That’s already been done. Firmly checked off the list. A long, long time ago. The peace, joy, and goodwill we center on during this most wonderful time of the year was already lavished on us as part of our divine inheritance!
This means we can gather together under that blessing without striving.
Our breath can slow.
Our shoulders can collectively drop.
We can rest and be strengthened to outpour generously and gently, as a peaceful presence.
And where Advent’s themes are needed in fierce measure; love on the front lines, hope and faith in the darkest night, joy and comfort for the brokenhearted, peace and goodwill to overcome injustice; God will deliver those spiritual weapons into your hands as well, so that you battle for and bring healing to a weary world with an endurance not your own.
We all want to keep Jesus, and thus “the real meaning of Christmas” at the center of our Christmas celebrations. But how often do we pause to consider the gift that Christmas is to us and to the whole world? And how might intentionally prioritizing receiving the gifts of God during this festive season help us celebrate in a different way this year?
The Spiritual Meaning of Christmas & Advent
Around here, we are navigating a very busy season in our family with some rather tumultuous growing pains. And by season I don’t mean one quarter of a calendar year. I mean several years back to back. It’s all southerned up with stressed emphasis and at least one extra syllable, all spoken at .5 playback speed. A real season.
And though I can see the terrain ahead leveling out and the pace falling into one that leans toward moderate, I don’t feel like I have a lot to give to this Christmas. I’m tapped out. As I contemplated our focus here on Holistic Faith Lifestyle for Advent, I began wrestling with the spiritual meaning of Christmas.
It seems we need to connect with the gift of Christmas and truly receive it, so that the themes of Advent and the Christmas story can be rebirthed in the humble manger of our hearts.
What are the 4 Themes of Advent?
- First Sunday, December 2, HOPE
- Second Sunday, December 9, PEACE
- Third Sunday, December 16, JOY
- Fourth Sunday, December 23, LOVE
In a season we’re told is more about the giving than receiving, pulling back could feel very close to failure. But isn’t slowing down and becoming unhurried tucked within the real meaning of Christmas; recalling the birth of Christ and preparing room for him in our hearts once again?
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30 (CEB)
So while you’ll still shop and plan and serve and give and attend holiday events, Jesus invites you to also rest in this and every season that follows. The really great news is that in anything God asks of us, he does the heavy lifting. So if the caution lights of your mind are already flashing a call to slow things down, Jesus says its the perfect time to come lay it all at his feet!
Over the years, I’ve worked on pulling back my efforts and disengaging from the commercial focus and abiding by the true meaning of Christmas. But there are still a lot of days during the Christmas season that feel set to a pace that isn’t my own.
So while I wish this Season of Receiving was being shared from a person who’d already perfected it, who’d been rocking some incredible life-giving boundaries, who got out of the way and let the Prince of Peace work so that she could overflow with a generous spirit and be a peaceful presence for others, one who because she’d quit performing could pat the seat next to her and welcome friends to just watch and wait on The Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift, it’s just not quite the case.
So if you, too, are a mixed bag of emotions in need of a much lighter burden this holiday season, this Advent Reading Plan is for you. We’ll welcome the traditional themes of Advent but view them as Christmas gifts lavished on us by our doting Creator. Together, we can shift from a hyper-focused Season of Doing to a sweet Season of Resting and Receiving.
Advent Reading Plan
Each Sunday of Advent, I’ll be sending an email with a short devotional reading centered around the Advent focus of the week. It will also include tips for resting your burdens at God’s feet, receiving his good gifts in their place, and reconnecting with God and others within the things you already have going on. No extra projects or list items. It’ll just be a little encouragement to connect with the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love of Christ.
The Perfect Christmas
This time of year carries with it an anticipation and hope of creating the perfect Christmas. All the things that we can do and our plans for execution get built up in our minds with nothing but the best intentions of good will.
Even with the commercialism removed, we look to make it a time of joy with bright, cozy memories spending time with those we love. And we go through great lengths to include all the pieces it would take to keep it going from Black Friday to the new year. It’s a lot of effort. It’s a lot of baking. Cleaning. Shopping. And mental gymnastics to justify all the yeses. The results can be magnificent! But honestly? Its pointless if the curator is tired, distracted, and hurried.
Good News of Great Joy
As I was contemplating all the things my family might do this year, how our Christmas traditions are shifting with the kids getting older and how we might spend this sacred time together, the Holy Spirit counseled rather matter-of-factly to:
“Stop trying to create what’s already been given. The perfect Christmas already happened and it’s nothing anyone could re-create. Receive it and in my name, be blessed.”
THAT is a good word. One of good news and great joy. It hits like a ton of bricks. Every. Single. Time. Go back & read it again.
Did your shoulders relax and a deep sigh escape your chest? Maybe followed by a “thank you, Jesus” and shortly thereafter, a semi-panicked “ok, but what about…(fill in the blank: Name of Person, exhausting tradition, annual commitment)? If not, maybe you’re already receiving and overflowing with countercultural holiday rest and legit Christmas cheer. If so, that is so, so good. I know that will be the honest answer for some of you because I know it’s possible!
I’m just not there yet. In this season, remembering that creating the joys of Christmas is not my work, is like a new gift of love every time I consider it!
Exploring the Spiritual Meaning of Christmas
While I can’t tell you exactly what to expect when you approach Christmas time this way, I do know the giving of yourself and receiving of God won’t be an absolute either/or. You’ll still give. You’ll still shop. You’ll still serve. You’ll still plan some incredible memory-making events. You’ll still be involved. You just won’t be overlooking all the things Jesus has taken off your list!
I do know if we hold that in our heart, this season of resting and receiving will be balanced and tender. Advent will be a season full of much more accessible versions of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. They will be the versions already included in our divine inheritance; those we are called to share but not challenged to create.
Life a Different Way
“I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate.”the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans, Ch 7, v12 as translated in the Common English Bible
Sound familiar? I know, right?
Could you benefit from identifying the Why’s behind what’s been keeping you stuck? Knowing the true target perfects the aim of your efforts. It is necessary for making lasting change that brings energy to your days. And I can help!
All Empowerment Coaching Packages are on sale now through January 2, 2024. Bestowing this gift of love on yourself and choosing to do life a different way is a true giving/receiving win/win combo!
However you choose to show up this Christmas and into the new year, I know God’s love will follow. Be blessed, friend!