Once a month, you’re going to hear from some of our authors or from our team on how we study the Bible, what resources we use, and what questions we ask. Submit your questions related to these topics by filling out the form here! With the holidays approaching, this month Becky Kiser, founder of Sacred Holidays, focuses on Advent resources.
If you are tired of Christmas feeling more chaotic than Christ-focused, then sit back, pour yourself some cocoa, and let’s talk about Advent—the celebration of Jesus during the weeks leading up to Christmas.
To start, let’s talk about a few common myths surrounding Advent and then I’ll share some of my top tips.
MYTH #1: But my church doesn’t do Advent
Many people think Advent, and other religious holidays, are just for more protestant denominations or Catholics. I get why you might think this way because these are the denominations that have traditionally practiced Advent corporately. It wasn’t until a few years ago that other denominations started talking about Advent. The church is now realizing it must rise up and show a different approach to the holidays as the demands from the world at Christmas continue to increase.
Truth: Advent is for you, regardless of which denomination you identify with, because Advent is about celebrating Jesus.
MYTH #2: I will become one of those Christians (you know the kind)
This was my biggest fear when I made the shift a few years ago to start practicing Advent. I love Christmas and all the whimsy of it. But social media gave me a little sneak peek into the lives of those who took a more spiritual approach to Christmas, and it didn’t sound very enticing. They wanted me to boycott certain stores, they told me I took the Christ out of Christmas if I wrote x-mas when I was in a rush, and they told me Santa was Satan spelled wrong. You know the kind, and you don’t want to be like them either.
Truth: There will always be those people, but you don’t have to be one of them. Don’t choose not to do something because you fear what others have made it. You can make it different. You can still love so many of the traditional elements of Christmas, while adding in some new ones. I promise, you will not become one of those people.
MYTH #3: I’m too busy to add another thing
This might be the hardest hurdle when choosing to celebrate the coming of Jesus through participating in Advent. After all, you are already so busy this time of year! Your weekends are full of parties and gatherings. Those crisp mornings make you want to pull the blankets up and snuggle or snooze just a few minutes longer. Your days are typically full before the holidays pick-up, but now you are trying to squeeze in last minute shopping, too. You fear adding another thing to focus on would push you over the edge into full Christmas chaos.
Truth: What I have seen personally, as well as the thousands of women who have done our Sacred Holidays Advent studies, is that choosing to do Advent creates space. When we focus on what is sacred—holy and set apart—space is created. Space doesn’t magically appear, but space is created as priorities get realigned. You can do this. It won’t be easy, but you will love what happens in your heart and life when you choose to celebrate Jesus more this Christmas.
Now that we’ve busted some myths about Advent by pointing out it is for anyone who believes in Jesus, won’t turn you into a weird Christian, and actually creates space, let’s talk about some practical ways you can celebrate Advent.
TIP #1: Pick an Advent Bible study or reading plan to go through
This is my number one recommendation if you want to dip your toe in the Advent water. God’s Word is powerful, and it is in Scripture we come to know Him! So if we want to celebrate Him, let’s center our hearts on Him and His Word.
I tell our Sacred Holidays ladies that Christmas is a time we tend to lighten up our studying of His Word, but let’s not sell ourselves short! Be realistic, of course, but don’t skimp on time with Him. It’s not the thing we should cut this time of year. We will have to make some sacrifices, planning those out ahead of time. This past year I had to wake up earlier to get in the time I wanted to have with Him. Other years I’ve stayed off social media until I’ve connected with Jesus. Choose what is best for you. This isn’t a punishment, but it is a discipline that does require effort on your part. The good news is the effort is always more than worth it!
When searching for an Advent study my recommendation is to make sure the study or devotional is centered around Scripture, not personal commentary or stories. Many advent devotionals are thrown together last minute or are lightened up by only providing a verse to look at and a thoughtful blurb to read. There is obviously a place for those devotionals, but for Advent, let me encourage you to push yourself to study Jesus in Scripture.
TIP #2: Participate in Advent candles at home
Many churches light Advent candles corporately, but you can do this in your home, too. All the whimsical feelings that your lit up Christmas tree brings will be intensified by the deeply meaningful glow of your Advent candles. Start with five unlit candles because, before Jesus, we were in darkness (Ephesians 5:8). Each Sunday light another candle as you prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12). There is no right or wrong way to display your candles, and you can pick whatever style candle you want. The point with the candles is they remind us of the Light coming (John 12:46) and show us the closer we get to Him, the more we can see (Psalm 119:105). Finally, as Advent closes, we are then commissioned to be a light for others (Matthew 5:16)!
Just a thought: Consider adding Advent candles where you work since you are there for more waking hours than you are at home. You can easily get the battery-operated tea candles for a smaller display. If this isn’t an option for you, then consider picking a light at your work to focus on in a similar way this Advent. Women who I share this with in prison aren’t able to use candles, but they pick lights around the prison to be their symbol.
TIP #3: Invite your people to do Advent with you
We need others; community is something Jesus modeled and encouraged. There is a reason Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, and CrossFit are successful—people are more inclined to stick with something when they do it with others. We will also get more out of what we are learning about God when we share it with others.
Suggestion: After you’ve picked a study to go through, email or text five friends and ask them to join you. You can meet once a week, start a Voxer (a walkie talkie app) group, or create a private Facebook group where everyone can check in with each other.
TIP #4: Give yourself grace and take baby steps
You will not get it right this year, or the next, or the next. Give yourself grace. I run a ministry that centers around making holidays more sacred, and there are still days I don’t do my Bible study, I go over budget on what I was supposed to spend on gifts, I overreact with my kids, and I get annoyed with family—just to name a few. But who I am this Advent compared to who I was five years ago isn’t comparable. So try picking one or two things to add this year that are more Christ-focused (like a Bible study and candles). When you take baby steps, you can add more each year.
For the Moms: Part of taking baby steps is to be careful with your own approach to Advent. We hear from a lot of moms at Sacred Holidays, who desperately want to teach their kids the real meaning of this holiday, that they neglect their own celebration of Christ’s coming—as us moms often do. If you’ve never done Advent personally, don’t start this year with a family Advent devotional. Instead, start by focusing on Advent for yourself. Find ways to teach your kids what you are learning and tell them about the candles, but don’t make it about them. They will learn from you and how you follow Jesus—this is discipleship. Show them the way, don’t just tell them.
I hope these myth busters and tips help get you started with celebrating Advent!
Click below to download an Advent iPhone wallpaper and a printable advent banner! To build the banner, simply cut out the diamonds and fold in half to create cute triangles you can clip to some string. The front of each banner piece will be a letter or picture that builds a phrase. The back of each piece has Scripture to read each day of advent, drawn from The Expected One. Put the entire banner up at once, or build the banner one day at a time to reveal the full phrase!
This is just the beginning, and we know that you all have lots of ideas and tips for celebrating Jesus at Christmas. We would love to hear about them! Would you share your favorite Christmas tradition in the comments? This can be spiritual or simply fun.
Also, as you prepare for and celebrate Advent use the hashtag #lifewaywomenadvent in your post so we can all follow along with one another this Advent.
Becky Kiser speaks often at women’s events and prisons. She is the Founder and CEO of Sacred Holidays, a ministry dedicated to helping women find less chaos and more Jesus as they make their holidays sacred, holy, and set apart through Bible Study, community, resources, and lots of fun! She is addicted to flavored coffee creamer, loves Texas summers, and usually is reading 3 books at the same time (although it’s a lot of picture books these days). She lives in the Woodlands, Texas with her husband, Chris, and their three daughters, Karis, Moriah, and Chandler, where they are involved at Church Project.