Why did I write a book on Advent when there are hundreds of Advent devotionals and new ones coming out every year?
It started as a story. A way to teach my children that the Advent season is more than a countdown to Christmas (so much more). I wanted to show them that belief in a Savior who came as a babe, lived a perfect life, died and rose again could not be contained in sparkles and candy cane stripes (much as I love both!), but that Advent and Christmas remind us not only that we are here for a purpose, but that we are on a journey.
The life of a Christian/disciple is a life unmoored, unrooted, it is a life of travel, a life of unease and dissonance. It’s realizing that as much beauty and love, joy and goodness this world holds it’s not all there is. It’s not our end.
I wanted my children to know that to be a Christian is to be a sojourner. It means to live between worlds, to live in a myriad of tensions–
already, but not yet
injustice, final justice
citizen and foreigner
grief and eternal joy
saint, yet still sinner.
Advent is a season of tension–longing mixed with hope and sorrow and yet, expectation. We know Christ’s promises are sure and true, but we are still waiting to experience their fullness. At Advent we look to Christ’s first coming in expectation of his second.
I wanted my children to know the freedom that there is no one right emotion or experience of Christmas.
In transcribing Traveler’s letters, I found my own need and longing known and met with an unfading hope that preserves in the midst of darkness.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety, depression, the loss of multiple children through miscarriages, along with the regular challenges and pains of life and living in a broken world with others sinners Advent brings me comfort.
Yes, there are silver bells (one of my favorite childhood songs) and all is merry and bright at Christmas, but sometimes you need those long, dark moments. The quiet pondering, the stillness that comes with loss and uncertainty. When it feels the world is a blur passing by and you’re in slow motion.
There are times we need the mourning and darkness. We need to acknowledge the pain, suffering, and injustice carried with the promise of hope. The center of Advent is knowing deep in your soul–whatever the loss, grief, or despair–Jesus is coming again to make all things right and whole.
This is not the end. It will not always be this way. There is hope, dear one.
Journey: Advent Letters for Sojourners is a soft and simple place to land when you can’t drum up the Christmas spirit. Whether you’re exhausted or full of energy, Journey is a place to be encouraged to keep walking the narrow road.
Journey: Advent Letters for Sojourners is divided into four weeks with four letters for each week with poems, hymns, or a Scripture interspersed throughout. Each week centers around a different theme of Advent. Week 1 focuses on being a sojourner and the longing of waiting for hope to be fulfilled. Week 2 focuses on repentance. Advent mirrors Lent in that it’s a season of repentance before celebration. Week 3 is a reminder to live ready, steadfast, and walking in righteousness. Week 4 is a call to endurance in the same path Jesus walks.
Advent starts Sunday, November 29th.
Get your copy of Journey: Advent Letters for Sojourners today!
Preparing for Advent
1. Choose your path.
Whether it’s daily Scripture readings, a devotional, prayer book, audiobook, hymns/songs, etc. make a plan ahead of time for how you’d like to center your Advent experience. Choose something that fits your season. You don’t need something that will add to guilt or your to do list. Choose a path that will lead you to truth and rest. This is not the season to do more (contrary to what the world around us says)
2. Decide the frequency.
Is it a daily reading? A weekly household devotional time? Perhaps it’s Tuesday and Thursday. Over coffee? After dinner? Whatever works for you and yours in the season of life you find yourself.
3. Pick an Advent wreath.
It could be a premade wreath or a circle of candles on a plate. Whatever you choose, it will be good. The Advent wreath is a simple, but beautiful tool in illustrating before your eyes the truth of God’s power in being light in the darkness. It’s made me cry a number of times just to see the darkness flee and all that means. (As much as I love Advent wreaths, these are always optional.)
4. Trust that the Lord will meet you.
He is your rest, all you have to do is be still. Cease striving, stop fighting. There are no correct feelings or emotions for you to drum up. Allow the Lord to minister to you, even in the simplest spark.
5. Be where you are as you move through the Advent season.
Are you feeling joy? Then smile, sing, or dance! Are you tired? Cut back on your to do list and rest. Eager to invite others into your home? Then gather around the table–come! Are you weary and sad? Allow yourself to feel those things, being gentle with your body and the words you speak to yourself.
6. Know you are loved.
Advent and Christmas are wrapped in the Love of a Savior. There is nothing left for you to do, nothing for you to earn–embrace this love, marvel in it, rest in it. The love of Christ is rich and free and yours forevermore.
When the celebrations of the newborn King of Christmas seem shallow (because sometimes they do) and the cultural commercialization of the glad tidings miss the point (because they often do), remember dear ones the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is coming again and is Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11-16). He is coming! Let your sorrows roll down and trust his beautiful words, “I will come back again” (John 14:3).
Be blessed this Advent season.
image: grant whitty via unsplash