Advent wreaths with Advent candles. Advent calendars. Jesse trees with their daily ornaments. Special Advent readings and devotionals. The to-do list this season grows ever longer each year, and the mommy guilt grows ever deeper right along with it.
Houston, we have a problem.
It has become fashionable in recent years to do “all the things” Advent-style. What was once simply a Mary-style lovely, restful, slow-paced anticipatory four weeks leading up to our Christmas Day celebration of the birth of Christ has now become a Martha-style striving to “do it all”.
During the Advent season, we (even if only subconsciously) believe our worth as moms comes from whether or not we are daily opening with our children a new little door on our Advent calendars. We think our status of being a “good mom” is reliant upon our reading a portion of the Christmas story or an Advent devotional with them every day. We believe ourselves to be bad moms if we are not printing out our Jesse tree ornaments or following the Jesus Storybook Bible reading plan for Advent or lighting a new Advent candle each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Satan has entered yet again, mamas, taking what could be a beautiful, meaningful, impactful season and turning it into just another season of striving. He has been whispering lies of what “good moms” are busy doing this time of year, and we are making the mistake of believing him.
Here’s the thing – you know all those ways of celebrating and commemorating Advent which I mentioned above? I actually have specific plans already laid out to do them all with my kiddos this year! But if at any time they begin to detract from the whole reason for the season, if at any time they begin to actually take away from the true purpose of this time of year – that of teaching my little ones the implications of Christmas, keeping my heart and the hearts of my family members on why we celebrate the baby in the manger, and fostering a heart of anticipation for the second coming of Christ just as Advent points back to those who had hearts of anticipation for the first coming of the Messiah, then all those things are going to go out the window. If the lighting of the candles and the reading of the devotionals and the opening of the calendars and the placing of the ornaments all becomes too much and this mama turns into a stressed out, frustrated, overwhelmed grouch of a person, then we are going to be taking a step back and renewing our minds in the truths of God’s Word. Because, here’s the thing – as wonderful as Advent practices are, they are not found in God’s Word and are not actually expected of us.
Here’s where the truth of the gospel comes into the equation. The gospel says that it is not in our accomplishments that our worth is found. Rather our worth is found in the Lord’s accomplishment of making us in His image. Our acceptance is based in Christ’s accomplishment on the cross. It is not in what we do, but in what Christ has already done. Our identity as moms is not based in whether or not we dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s on the Advent to-do list. Our identity as moms is in our following Christ and relying upon Him. It is in knowing our standing before God in Christ as a mom redeemed, forgiven, and made new. It is not in whether or not we hang all our ornaments or get through each day on the interactive Advent calendar.
What I want you to remember today, mama, is this: I want you to remember that Advent is all about pointing our hearts and the hearts of our kids towards Christ and the implications of His incarnation as a baby. It’s about growing in our understanding of the need we have for Christ. It serves as a reminder of what it must have been like for the Jews in the Old Testament to be in a season of waiting for their Savior, and it is about fostering in our hearts both a gratitude for the first coming of Christ and an anticipation of the second. What Advent is not about is impressing the fellow moms on social media through all our Advent activities. What Advent is not about is running ourselves ragged doing all the Pinterest-inspired crafts, readings, and practices we think we “have” to do in order for our kids to see Christ this season. What Advent is not about is, ironically, yelling at our kids to sit still so we can read through that day’s devotional in our effort to point them to Christ.
Here’s the thing – each of the tools mentioned above are valuable and can add a special feel to your Christmas season, to be sure. They can even become building blocks of treasured family traditions. However, they are just that – tools. They are meant to be implemented as is possible in an effort to point your heart and the hearts of your family members to Christ. If at any time they cease in that mission and become something which instead focuses on you, however, then they need to be scaled back and perhaps even ceased altogether. Because here’s the truth – a mama focused on the good news of the gospel, a mama whose mind and heart are fixed on the reason for the season, and a mama who is at peace with the sure foundation of who she is in Christ can have a far greater impact on her children for the Lord than any Advent wreath ever could.
So, here’s to a lovely Advent! Remember the reason for the season, remember to keep first things first, remember the gospel Christ came to bring, and you will enjoy a lovely Christmas season indeed.