Tag Archives: advent

God Loves Celebrations: Part II

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

When I wrote the first post with this title, I thought I was finished with the subject. It turns out, I’m not. My last post was in light of a wedding I’d recently attended, and how amazing and God-honoring it was, how God must truly love celebrations of all kinds, and encourage His children to participate.

Now that Christmas has come and gone, and I’m exhausted with all the joy (and chaos) I’ve been experiencing, it happens to be my middle child’s birthday. Just like any mom who wouldn’t want her son’s birthday to be overshadowed by the birthday of his Savior (well, you know what I mean), I’ve tried to plan a few things, save some presents for his special day, and make sure he feels celebrated. He hasn’t really wanted a party, but told me that for his fourth birthday (the only fourth birthday he’ll ever have, ya know?!) he’d like a “yellow or boy-colored watch” (like his dad’s) and some cake. He didn’t mention a party, fancy food, a special outfit, or balloons – which I do plan to get early that morning, along with some sprinkled donuts. Why will I do it anyway? Because it gives our whole family great joy to celebrate him! The joy I derive from celebrating him must be only a tiny particle of the joy our Father derives from celebrating us.

Let me explain.

I’ve spoken about how God planned all sorts of things for His son’s birth, angels and unkempt shepherds and the like. In Psalm 145, we are encouraged to celebrate His goodness (v7). His goodness when He blessed my husband and me with a son, after a hard season of sadness over a miscarriage. Celebrating my son, for me, is celebrating a gift from God! And God loves the celebration! It is, to both of us, an expression of my gratitude.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable that finishes with a celebration. The prodigal son had returned to his father, hanging his head low and expecting (asking, even!) to be treated like a servant. However, the father is so delighted that he calls for a celebration to rival all other celebrations. That father, symbolizing our heavenly father, celebrates his son’s return, without even mentioning his sins. To bring it back around to my four-year-old, his tantrums and mistakes abound, but his birthday is a day to celebrate his very existence in our family, his very being that was lovingly created by God, who knit him together in my womb (Psalm 139) before we knew anything about him. I’d say that a gift of that magnitude is worth celebrating! And I daresay God would agree.

And still, all through the old testament are more and more examples of celebrations. Harvests, festivals, Passover… there are celebrations for all of these, signifying God’s faithfulness, His provision, and the deliverance He provided and is providing for His people over and over again. He built celebration into the strict rules the Israelites followed in the book of Exodus, and it continues all the way through till Jesus’s birth. There were rules surrounding celebrations and how they were to be observed. But the first rule was that they would be observed. Celebration has been an integral part of His plan for us, from the beginning of time. If in Zephaniah 3:17 it says that He will rejoice over you with singing, then I’d say celebrations are for you, too. 

Four Great Christmas Books for Young Children

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I have a big red bin full of books I pull out only during Advent and Christmas time. It includes silly ones about melting snowmen, and a couple of those touchy-feely Usborne books for toddlers, but it also includes a few beautiful stories. Of course, like everyone, we love The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but these are a little lesser known. Here are my favorite books I read with my kids during this season.

Song of the Stars. This Sally Lloyd-Jones beauty is one of my favorite books ever. With beautiful illustration by Alison Jay, it is similar to SLJ’s Jesus Storybook Bible (which has a WONDERFUL telling of Jesus’s birth, by the way) on keeping Jesus at the center of the season, and emphasizing his saving of us all, not just his birth. The story begins with the tangible excitement of his coming, rustling through the leaves and being sensed by all of nature, this gift that would change the world.

Room for a Little One. This one is a toddler book, but it’s so sweet. My kids have loved naming the animals as we go through it, and seeing Jesus’s birth from the perspective of those unsuspecting characters. It’s by Martin Waddell.

Birds of Bethlehem. Now THIS is a neat book, by Tomie de Paola. We see the story of Jesus’s birth from some birds in and around Bethlehem. They are chattering away, sharing stories about how a baby has been born, angels sang, shepherds and wise men visited, and what it all means.

The Gift of the Magi. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this story by O. Henry. A beautiful telling of a couple who have nothing to give to each other, but end up showing their love by giving everything. The version I have is illustrated by P. J. Lynch, and is simply stunning. I can’t read it without crying.

What are the most treasured Christmas books in your family?

A Christmas Itch

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Every year at this time, I get the itch.

No, it’s not just my dry skin.

I get the itch to play that Christmas music, get out my decorations, and even to watch those cheesy movies. You know why? Because I truly do believe it’s the most wonderful time of the year. My home state has a chill in the air – but not too chilly, because, let’s be honest, enough is enough when it comes to cold weather. Lights are beginning to twinkle at some of the houses on my street. Stores are full of Christmassy colors, freshly baked treats, and boxes of glittery cards to send to loved ones. It really, really is the most wonderful, incredible time of the year.

But it isn’t the borderline-oppressive red and green decorations, the Christmas cookies, or even the sweet-smelling wreaths and garlands that make this the best time of year. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the general feeling of goodwill the circulates, because it’s even more apparent than usual that we’re part of a bigger story. The story that began all this stuff, this gift-giving and song-singing, is a story that has always been written. In fact, it started who knows how many millennia ago, before the beginning of time as we know it. And it’s still going on now; we’re not to its end. This narrative, the story of all of us, it’s not even remotely over.

You see, God knew this story was going to play out like this. He knew each of us, before we were knitted together in our mothers’ wombs, before our great-great-great-grandparents were even thought of. Before the flood, or even Adam and Eve. God is so far out of time as we know it that He probably feels like all that stuff was just this morning. He has known forever that we wouldn’t be perfect, or even good, without His help. He knew we’d screw up and need some serious intervention. But He didn’t stop loving us or start holding back His help. He provided the ultimate way for our saving, a way to let us be closer to Him. He had this majestic plan to send His Son before He even created us!

What does all of this mean? It means is that we have been given the greatest gift possible. We’ve been given the most perfect gift in the form of a helpless babe in arms. What kind of God sends His love to someone like that? As it turns out, an all-powerful, forever-gracious, fully righteous God sends His love like that. Love came down, under a bright star, in the dead of night, to an unwed mother and a frightened earthly father. Love came down to give hope, to live a perfect life, to be persecuted and crucified, to make straight a highway for our God to literally come alongside us. Jesus was the first Christmas gift, the most mind-blowing and expectation-shatttering gift ever.

Now, what does all of this mean for us? It means that we can call on God for anything and everything. It means that through Jesus, we are made holy and righteous, and God sees us that way. It means that, through Jesus, we have literally been given every spiritual blessing. Did you read that right? Every. Spiritual. Blessing. (Ephesians 1) That means we have the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5). We can pray directly to our Father and receive the ability to do works, just as Jesus did (John 14). We can ask Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Romans 8).

God Loves Celebrations

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve been privileged to take part in a great many celebrations. From weddings and anniversaries, baptisms and birthday parties, to dedications of babies and even memorial services, I have been a part of countless celebrations. Honoring relationships, accomplishments, and simply life itself, it is a beautiful thing to celebrate our blessings, the people we love, and just being together. I believe that God gave us the gift of celebration on purpose, that He is pleased when we join together in fellowship and celebration. It is part of the life abundant that He came to give us!

Perhaps the piece of scripture that’s most obviously a celebration is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We know the whole story well, but here’s the best part: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24)

We aren’t always celebrating the return of a beloved person back into our lives, and we aren’t always killing fatted calves to do so. But if this parable, a picture of God’s love for His wandering children, is full of uninhibited celebration and holding nothing back from the son who was lost and then found, then it is fitting we should celebrate, pull out the stops, and show our love by sharing joy in this way!

Along with the countless other feasts, convocation days, and dedications mentioned throughout Scripture, the most incredible example of God-honoring celebration is found, as you might expect, at the birth of Jesus. There were no invitations sent, or caterers booked. There wasn’t a cake or 10-piece band. There was, however, a gorgeous star put up in the sky for just such an occasion, as well as a singing multitude of the heavenly host, and the proudest parents there have ever been.

This picture of the first-ever Jesus-worshipers is still my favorite image. Surprised, unkempt shepherds, used to hanging out in the fields with their sheep. New parents, knowing they had just experienced something special, but not really knowing the full extent. Angels (Full stop. Can you imagine angels at your next baby dedication?) coming out in hordes to announce the birth of Jesus, singing the first songs of praise, and filling the skies with the glory of the Lord. If that doesn’t seem like a picture of a father celebrating his son, you might need to look again. Jesus had been sent by a Father who was celebrating not only him, but the rest of His sons and daughters who would be saved by this Son of Righteousness. A truly happy Father, who was seeing His redemptive plan begin.

Currently: Christmas Time!

Y’ALL. I started this post in plenty of time to get it ready for posting last Wednesday, but then I FORGOT. SO! Here’s my Currently post for December, a little later than it should be. Oops.

December is here! Advent is here! And I am literally the happiest person. It’s my favorite time of year. Everything is extra beautiful, covered in greenery and frost, anticipation runs through our veins, and gift-giving abounds. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. So, since it’s the first Wednesday of the month, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and Catherine of A Short Blonde for December’s Currently party.

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Lighting || both of our Christmas trees, and our front porch columns! If I had my way, I’d probably cover everything in lights because I love them so much. But Hubby thankfully anchors me down a little bit. Here are our trees and front porch!

Spending || a little less than usual on Christmas presents, I think. I’ve just slowed down a little on how much I’m doing. I know my kids will get plenty from their grandparents, too, and Hubby and I aren’t getting anything else for each other because we just splurged on a Vitamix and a couple of pieces of furniture. I don’t want Christmas to feel “small” for anyone, presents-wise, but I doubt that will be a problem!

Choosing || which of our family photos we’re turning into canvases for our own home, and which we’re giving to our parents! (Did I just ruin their surprise?) It’s the biggest decision to choose a favorite photo from our recent session with Urban Bloom Photography when they were ALL.SO.GOOD. Here’s a little preview…

Sending || Christmas cards! I just finished addressing them and put them in the mail yesterday! It’s one of my favorite things to do at Christmas, and I absolutely LOVE getting them in the mail! I ordered a few less than last year because I always have ten or so left over and now I’m afraid I’m going to have to order a few more! YIKES.

Singing || ALL of the Christmas music. I love Christmas music, specifically Christmas hymns and songs about Jesus (because I’m a worship leader, duh) and also just regular songs about snow and Santa and the whole deal. This year, EK is remembering lyrics and learning Christmas songs at school so it’s extra fun to sing with her!

Leave a comment and tell me what you’re up to Currently!

An Advent Calendar of Surprises

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

Recently I was chatting with a friend who was flabbergasted that I’m basically done with my Christmas shopping. Really, that’s just because I love Amazon and I’m at Costco once a week. It makes it a little easier for me. But still- it made me feel really good about how well I was doing in preparation.

I finally have my decorations up now, including an Advent calendar that I made several years ago. I love the idea and doing a little something each day, and I’ve done something different inside it each year. Since my kids are all under age 5, they are just now getting into knowing what I’m reading to them, or looking forward to the activities that are in there. So this year, I filled the little pockets with Bible verses (mostly chronological, about the angel coming to Mary, Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, etc.) and Christmas-themed family activities that I ripped off of several different folks’ ideas on their sites (watch a Christmas movie, sing a carol, etc.). Then I stuck a few jelly beans in five random pockets as a fun surprise. 

But I didn’t do all of this and prepare it until we should’ve been on day 3. We had already bypassed two whole days of December and it was the afternoon of the 3rd before I got started. So naturally, it’s a little scattered and low-budget looking. I didn’t print beautiful cards. I didn’t even write very clearly on half of them. I wasn’t super creative. You might say I was a slacker.

But giving my kids something to look forward to each day was important to me. I wanted them to look for a little surprise, and to wonder whether today was the day with candy. I wanted them to read a verse each day about Jesus’s coming, and have the reminder of what Christmas is about.

My kids don’t care that it could’ve been a little nicer or that I was two days late. They love surprises, and they love having a thing to look forward to. That’s all advent is, anyway: the looking forward to things to come. It’s the anticipation of Christ’s arrival, and the coming of a king. It’s a surprise, a glorious and wonderful surprise, the saving of souls and celebration of the saints.

From the Manger to the Cross


Oh, how the first Sunday of advent prepares my heart for Christmas. Today is a day of celebrating, and also a day of being intentional about turning our hearts to the manger to await the coming of our King.

To turn my heart away from decorations and gift-buying can sometimes be hard. Often, getting caught up in Black Friday sales and locating the perfect decor for the unfestive corner of my home take precedence after Thanksgiving. Because t this morning, my pastor likened Thanksgiving and Christmas to s kind of homecoming. We typically gather with our families or even travel to our (former? forever?) homes to be with those we love. He nudged us to apply this sense of “homecoming” to the Christian life. A homecoming not for physical things, but coming home to the eternal love of a Father, the spirit of loving, giving no and worshiping a King who has sacrificed everything to bring us home.

We are reminded as Christians, especially during the Christmas and Easter seasons that we are only in a temporary home. This world is not our forever home, and we should never forget that. The home we look forward to joining is the perfect place to spend eternity, together with the saints and our Jesus in heaven. We have been adopted into the most prestigious, loving and healthy family there is, assigning us to a feast table beyond our wildest imaginations. We are accepted and loved and made whole in this familial identity. We have indeed found our worth in the sacrifice that was made on our behalf.

So as you enter Advent, turning your heart to the manger, don’t forget that the manger leads to the cross. We are on this journey together, pointing to the same destination in a few months’ time. This anticipation of the arrival of our King leads to His death, but also His resurrection, the mind-blowing realization that He has done the work to keep us His and whole and bring us home.