Here’s what Noel Piper has to say about Advent in Treasuring God in Our Traditions.
We are a people of promise. For centuries God prepared people for the coming of His Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made – that He would make a way to draw near to Him. Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes the first Sunday in December. First Peter 1:10-12 is a clear description of what we look back to during Advent. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re reenacting, remembering thousands of years during which God’s people were anticipating, longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what Advent means – “coming.” Even God’s men who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating” (v.11). They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.
In fact, God revealed to them that they were not the ones who would see the sufferings and glory of God’s Christ. “They were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (v.12). They were serving us. We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan. The centuries of waiting are over. We have the greatest reason to celebrate.
And yet we are still waiting. Our spiritual redemption came to us with the baby of Bethlehem. Nonetheless, as Romans 8 says, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). There is suffering and tragedy still, even for Christians. Someone we love is dying. We may be in pain. Sometimes we have trouble believing God’s promises. In other words, our redemption is not complete. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies – waiting for Jesus’ second advent, for Him to come again.
So here we stand in the middle. Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been, waiting for the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, Advent is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at His Second Coming.
We really want to make Christmas all about Jesus in our house. It's so easy, even as adults, to get swept up in the chaos of the commercial holiday, so we're trying to be intentional with our actions and plans this Season. We want to make the reality of Christmas and what it's about so captivating for Cayden that everything else pales in comparison. This year it's not too difficult because he's still too young to fully grasp what's going on, but I think this is a good place to start and build on for the future. One of the things we're doing is Advent as a family.
I had researched it and prepared months in advance. I made a cute toilet paper calendar to keep the daily readings in and had activities I wanted to do with Cayden planned. And I am thrilled to tell you, we are loving it! We started out doing it a certain way, but after noticing that Cayden wasn't getting much out of it, we switched it up. Here's what we do with our 1 year old, in case anyone's interested. After Cayden gets a bath and has his jammies on, we congregate in the living room. We turn all the house lights off except the Christmas tree and we light that weeks Advent candles. We talk about how Jesus came to be the light of the world. We pray asking God to prepare our hearts to worship Him and give us spirits that long for Him. Then Collin reads some of the Christmas story. I've divided it up in portions so that we expand on it every night and Cayden, and all of us really, benefit from the repetition. As Collin reads, Cayden and I act it out with this.
His Little People Nativity set. Then we sing a couple Christmas carols and that’s it. It’s a lot less stressful than what we were doing before and Cayden enjoys it a lot more. I feel like he’s actually benefiting from it whereas before, he was just sitting there listening to us talk. I'll post more later on some activities we've done and are doing over the next week and a half.