a guest post by Amy Lines (raisinglittledisciples.com)
Advent hasn’t always meant so much to me. Growing up I knew the Christmas story but never knew its significance. My wider family were Christians but my parents weren’t. My mum had a set of little nativity figures that we’d get out in the lead up to Christmas, and add some each week to the story displayed on the table, but it was just that: a story.
As I got older Advent became more about the fabric calendar that my mother made for me, with little presents inside, instead of the little wooden figure of a baby inside a manger. I became a Christian at 16 years old, when Jesus spoke to my heart and I realised he wasn’t just a story, he was real. I gave my life to him and suddenly I knew the “reason for the season” was the person of Jesus but more than that, his plan to rescue us and bring us back into relationship with God. When it came round to Christmas that year all the gifts weren’t as important as the gift I’d just received. How could chocolate, or a new pen, or a watch compare to eternal life, freedom, and peace I’d never known? The realisation that I was loved, accepted and wanted so much by the Creator God that he’d sent his Son to earth, just blew my mind. As I counted down to Christmas Day I was overwhelmed with all the feelings and all the ways that God cared for me. I saw the story come alive. Jesus could relate to me in all my human fragility, and yet his perfect nature as God meant he wasn’t a helpless baby in a manger but the Saviour who bore all my sin and shame and pain on the cross.
Now as a parent, I want Advent to be so much more than rushing around completing Christmas shopping and waiting in lines for Black Friday, or giving my kids a chocolate calendar with elves behind every door. This year I’ve made our own Advent Calendar, complete with pictures to colour in, a snippet of the Christmas Story, a prayer and a question for dinner time discussions around the table. I wanted to make an interactive calendar that the whole family could explore together. As I prepared it though God brought to life so many more angles of his story that I’d missed over the years. It was as though I was seeing the Story again for the first time.
I sensed the Holy Spirit speak to me about my life as I chewed over the verses in Luke and Matthew that I’d read so many times before. Was I doubting God like Zechariah did when the angel came to him, or was I trusting in the unseen like the Magi following a star? Was I persevering in my search for Jesus, like these wise men did? Do I worship in my uncertainty of my future like Mary did? I thought about the smaller things, the unknown and unsaid aspects to their journey. What did they eat on their journey to Bethlehem, and did they worry that God wouldn’t provide like I often do? The diversity of the crowd around the manger, all coming together as one people to worship. It broke my heart as I saw it representing God’s kingdom and his heart for his Church. To be one people. What started as a great craft idea for my blog and my kids, became so much more. I reflected on all the people and situations involved in this well known, but often sidelined, Christmas story and I saw the depths of God’s intricate plans in a new way.
I’ve heard preachers often say, if no one else believed it but me, it would still have all been worth it. And today I’m more convinced than ever, that this is true. That God’s plans for me are good, that he is good. I am so valuable to him, and he’s proved that by going to all these lengths, to prepare so many details, so that on June 12th, 2005 my eyes would be opened to see how high, how wide and how deep is his love for me.
So this Advent, you may find me frantically wondering where to buy Christmas decorations and presents in a new city as we have just moved from England to America. But at some point each day I’ll sit with my kids, with our colouring pens out, talking about the Reason for the season. I can’t wait to see them learn that their story is part of God’s great Christmas story.
If you’d like to download a printable copy of this calendar head here https://www.raisinglittledisciples.com/blog/2017/11/19/advent-christmas-story
Amy is a lover of pulling ridiculous faces; a follower of Jesus; a wife to a handsome bearded man; a mum (and homeschool teacher!) to two hilarious and energetic children who she calls cubs. They have just moved from England to America to plant churches and are excited to see God's story unfold. Amy is a lover of arts and crafts, and loves to encourage and empower other people. Her website raisinglittledisciples.com is all about encouraging Christian parents to teach their cubs to know and love God for themselves, and providing creative ways to do so.