Advent Series: Preparing a Way – Part 2

Welcome back as we begin the second week of our mother and daughter Advent series!

How are those Jesse Trees coming? My daughters and I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing homemade ornaments for our tree this week.

Jesse Tree -

If your days are anything like ours, perhaps you were unable to make more than a few ornaments this week. There were a couple days when we simply ran out of time to make ornaments for our tree. Have grace for yourselves. This activity is meant to be a blessing and serve as a visual reminder that Jesus Christ has prepared a way for you.

Speaking of preparing a way…

How many of us travel during the holidays or prepare for extended family to visit? Growing up, my family spent one weekend each December traveling for Christmas. My mom’s mother and father divorced and remarried before I was born, so as a child, I always enjoyed three sets of grandparents. This also meant three separate Christmas celebrations, which we managed to fit into one spectacular weekend each December.

Weeks and weeks of preparation went into each of these fun-filled weekends. My Mama Gal, my mom’s mother, started cooking months ahead of time. Polish mistakes, Papa Jack’s spicy trash mix, BBQ little smokies, cheese balls, crunchy cheese tidbits, Jezebel (a hot and sweet sauce) and cream cheese, dilled nibbles, sausage balls and Mexican wedding cookies (we called ‘em Sandies) were just a few of the yummy morsels that graced the tables at my grandparents’ house each year. I know…we’re from the South. What can I say? It was controlled chaos with grandkids running amok, aunts and uncles laughing—roughly 25 people in my grandparents’ living room making memories that we would cherish a lifetime.

My mom also spent a great deal of time preparing for those weekends, often making meaningful gifts by hand. One such gift would become a very special symbol of our family Christmases. It was a circular ornament with the word “Noel” cross-stitched across the front. A mother’s life is seldom calm, especially when her children are young, and my mom’s crazy days when my brothers and I were little were no exception. In her haste to finish the ornament she was preparing as a gift, she accidentally sewed the hanger on upside down. “Noel” became “Leon.”

Leon -

It may not make sense, but this precious ornament became the ornament to hang each year. It was reason behind the best kind of anticipation we felt unpacking Christmas decorations each year. I kid you not, friends. My Prince Charming was asked to hang Leon for the first time the year we became engaged. My brothers were unable to be with us as the Christmas decorations went up that year.

When my mom told my older brother they had asked my hubby-to-be to hang Leon that year, she said there was a long pause before my brother finally responded with, “Well tell him I hoped he enjoyed it, because it will be a loooooong time before his turn rolls around again.” We laughed and laughed. As each child married, my mom prepared a Leon ornament of our own so that we could carry on that tradition with our families.

Traditions like holiday cooking and the hanging of our Leon ornament are only a part of my family’s preparation for the Christmas season. How do you prepare for the Season of Glad Tidings? What is one of the first images we see of Christmas? Lights. Right? We hang lights on our Christmas trees, light candles in windows and in our Advent wreaths, tack lights in our yards and on our houses.   Lights are everywhere.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.

For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned.

They will be fuel for the fire.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.

The government will rest on his shoulders.

And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government and its peace will never end.

He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

~Isaiah 9:2, 5-7

Before God created light (Genesis 1:3), the world was in darkness. Can you imagine what it would be like to walk in darkness throughout your entire life? Stumbling around without a glimmer of light in the endless dark?   Without Jesus, this is exactly what life is like (John 8:12, John 9:5).

With the birth of Jesus, who was there when then sun itself was first ignited, God brought hope into a dark world. When we prepare a way for Jesus, we prepare the way for Him to be the light inside of us—a light that never dims, never burns out and never goes away. This is the purpose of Advent.

We talked a little last week about the commercialization of Christmas. Decorations and seasonal buzz did not just begin the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas décor and sales popped up as early as July. We see preparation of seasonal activities advertised for months before Christmas. The Nutcracker, Jingle 5K Fun Run, Trail of Lights…the list goes on.

Is there a meeting place between the call of our faith and the habits of our time during Advent? Think about it. Most of the elements of this season have an interest in preparation, such as preparing for visiting family, holiday baking, and making gifts for those we love. All of these elements of preparation share a desire for something more.

God, who lovingly placed every star in the sky, breathed the Bethlehem star into place, lighting a way for a Baby in a manger. The only light we will truly ever need. God prepared a way for His infant son in a stable with hay to save us all from the hopeless darkness of the world.

“To understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel.”

– Timothy Keller, Hidden Christmas

An Activity for Mom & Me

Quick note: Remember, as with all Girls of Grace Bible studies, this Advent series includes a weekly Mom & Me activity. These are fun activities meant to be enjoyable and inclusive for all family members, which are designed to help you dig a little deeper into the weekly devotion in a fun way. While this element of Bible study is completely optional, it is sure to be entertaining and memorable, so I encourage you to make time for these activities if at all possible.

Preparing a Way: Visit a Live Nativity

This week, continue working on your Jesse Tree. Remember, your ornaments and tree can be as simple or elaborate as you like. The time spent working on your Jesse Tree should feel like a blessing, not added stress. For those of you who need a paper bag to breathe into while you craft, you will be so relieved to know that this week’s Mom & Me activity has nothing to do with crafting and creating.

For your Mom & Me activity this week, your objective is to find a live nativity in your area and carve out the time to attend with your family.

Before you go, though, read Isaiah 9:2, 5-7 again. If you can, memorize this snippet from Isaiah 9:6-7.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.

The government will rest on his shoulders.

And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government and its peace will never end.

He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Ponder with one another what it means. How does being given a son, who will have the government upon his shoulder, inspire a new vision for tending God in our surroundings? Explore the poetry of Isaiah this week and make this your prayer during the second week of Advent.

I look forward to seeing more pictures of your Jesse Trees and hearing about your live nativity experiences.   My family visited a captivating live nativity in our area called “Follow the Star.” What we loved about it was that this live nativity included more than just the birth of Jesus. It incorporated 10 moments from Jesus’ life, which help tell the full story of how God prepared a way for you and me.   Here are a few pictures from our experience that I hope will inspire you to attend a live nativity near your home.

Follow the Star -

Please share pictures during your Advent journey with me on Instagram and Facebook!  I love to hear from you.  You can also find more photos and videos of my family’s journey on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).

Follow the Star -

This last photo is what my oldest told me is a low-quality picture of a high-quality experience.  It’s the journey that matters, so go forth and make memories!  We will meet right here next Sunday as we continue our journey of preparing a way during this Advent season. I pray you and yours have a very blessed week!

Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23

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Catherine Bird: A Four Week Advent Study
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