Images of Advent

Most years when December hits and the Christmas season gets underway our family scrambles to prepare well. We don’t want to lose the hope and longing for Christ in the midst of a commercialized cultural moment. So to that end, we have tried a number of different books, guides, and calendars to get our hearts fully engaged in Advent (the month-long reminder and celebration of the arrival of Jesus and expectation of his return). But each year we feel like we have to start over with materials more appropriate for our season of life and worthwhile for our kids.

This year, instead of hunting for and ordering what might work, Stacy set out to write a devotional for our family that would make much of Jesus and instill an increasing sense of hope in our hearts. The result is our Images of Advent Family Devotional.

Image 11-29-18 at 3.43 PMImages of Advent shares Scripture and a simple devotional with questions for the days leading to Christmas. There is also a paper ornament families get to decorate for each day as a reminder of the good news of Jesus at Christmas.

We are excited to freely give print copies to our friends at Reservoir Church this Sunday but for those of you far off we are glad to make the pdf of the devotional available to you to download.

Please feel free to print, share, and enjoy Jesus in the Images of Advent Family Devotional. Click the links to download:

Images of Advent.

Advent Ornaments.

Anticipating… no longing for Christmas

Something rather strange has come over me this fall. If you have known me for long enough, you would know that the preparation and celebration of Christmas, at least in my opinion, is meant for a very specific block of the calendar that falls just after Thanksgiving and ends immediately after Christmas dinner. My wife has called me a Scrooge, and I have been fine with the title.

Enter 2016. This has been an interesting year. On the home front it has been wonderful. Our big focus was adoption and now Adia is home with us and advancing by leaps and bounds. The big kids are great with their sister and all three are such a joy to parent. Stacy has taken on so much and handled it all with grace and poise. Even the dogs are doing awesome!

For all of its goodness 2016 has also been a hard year. Sickness and hospital visits/stay for the littles. Some difficult transitions of families from our church. And friends that have faced devastating prognoses, relocations, heartbreak, death, you name it. Add a layer of political and racial unrest in our country and wham… we are ready for something better.

So I sit here typxmass-treeing in a room fully decorated for Christmas. I have been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks and all around I can’t wait for Christmas. The food, the laughter, the joy, the glorious reminder of Immanuel the God with us; all of the wonderful things Christmas promises. In fact I am thankful that I have the longing for them because it tells me I am built to long for better, for truer things.

This is what Christmas should be for us. The thankful anticipation we have on this side of the cross. Thankful for the accomplished work of our redemption by the Savior that entered the scene as a child born unto us. Anticipating his return, the final restoration of all things, the end of sin, heartbreak, cancer, war and hurt. Reminded of it in every sip of egg nog and song sung round the fire…pit.

I invite you to join me in the longing. The celebration of what we have been given and the future we will see. Anticipate it with me. Revel in the goodness of a God who dwells in our mess, in the pain, in order to rescue us from it. Go ahead… sing Silent Night and rejoice!

The Cross We Deserve

We have entered the season of Advent and we wait with growing expectation to celebrate the birth of our savior. But in the midst of the present buying and carol singing I am struck by the amount of reflection I am doing on the Cross of Christ.

Whether in texts for school or small group conversations I am drawn to dwell on the significance of the Cross where Jesus finally covered us in redemption and forgiveness. The Cross however was not a clean exercise in death. It was devastatingly gruesome and disturbing. Other do a much better job at fully describing crucifixion and the agony it would entail. We even have the modern word ‘excruciating’ which was created to describe the pain.

It was gory and despicable. There must be a reason Christ came at that point in history and experienced what he did. If he had come today, would he have been “lethally injected” and succumbed to this “humane” form of execution? How would we respond to Christ’s death had it been “easy” in light of the fact that we are the ones that deserved to die?

The gruesome nature of the Cross has me realizing what I deserve. Because of sin I am the one that deserves to be tortured and maimed. I deserve humiliation and condemnation. I deserve the suffocation from my own weight and shame. But I don’t face this death because God himself stood in my place, and yours, to atone for our prideful turning from our creator.

The weight of the Cross is hanging in the air like a fresh winter snow for me. Just as the snow covers the ground in purity, Christ’s blood covers me in grace and righteousness. Because of the Cross I am availed to relationship with the one that hold the realms of life and death, earth and universe. May the weight of the Cross draw me further to repentance and belief in Jesus.

Without the birth there is no Cross, and without the Cross there is no (re)birth. Let us be about the anticipation of Christmas and the realization of the Cross.