A few years back, I started to lean into the advent season. A popular Christian podcast I listen to, That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs, always invited their listeners to participate in the SheReadsTruth Advent study and being in Ghana, it was always challenging to get the advent books here in time for me to engage with the season. However, the past couple of years, it has been a part of my yearly holiday traditions, to press into Scripture during the advent season.
For those that don't know much about Advent (I am still learning, so I am by no means know it all), it is the season on the church calendar when you prepare your heart for the birth of Jesus (and the eventual return of Jesus). Usually, you light a candle each Sunday of advent to represent a specific characteristic of that waiting: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and finally, on Christmas Day, the Jesus Candle. He has arrived! He is here!
Since I recently began to practice this tradition of advent, I hadn't travelled to the States during Christmas. My advents here in Ghana have been hot and sticky. Christmas is always a bit weird here--we put up our decorations and decorate our tree, light up the house with twinkly lights, but it always feels a little strange sweating it out in our living room watching Miracle on 34th Street and seeing the snowy streets of New York City highlighted on the big screen. One year, the first year I had the boys, I turned on my A/C in my bedroom and we piled in on my bed under blankets to watch a Christmas movie, just so we could enjoy the coolness of "winter" for just a moment.
Last year, however, was the first Christmas I spent in the States since 2014. All my previous U.S. travels had been on my own, embracing my singleness and enjoying the freedom of traveling here, there, and everywhere to spend time with all my favorite people. However, this time around, I came to the States with my family in tow. My husband and my kids had never experienced snow or cold, winter weather and it had been a long time for me as well. It was a bit of a shock to all of us, but I embraced the season even more getting to experience it with my husband and kids. Somehow, snow just seemed more like a miracle through the eyes of an almost 2 year old and the twinkly lights of the Christmas tree just a little more magical.
When we arrived on a chilly morning in Colorado, my advent Bible study book was sitting on my bed, beaconing me to come and dig in. My little sleep-deprived family, tired due to all the travel, set to unpacking and getting some rest. The book moved out of the way, and we all stretched out for naps. We spent time with family that first day, and though we all went to bed at a normal time, I was woken up bright and early at 4am by Ava. The jet lag had fully taken over and all I could do was give in to her little pitter patter of feet, her quiet voice asking for breakfast, and we snuck out to the living room before anyone else woke up. I bundled her up in a warm blanket and put a cup of hot chocolate in her hands as I busied myself by building a fire. When everything was settled, I pulled out my advent book and my Bible and dug into the Word. Last year's SheReadsTruth book was focused on "light" and it seemed perfect as the little Christmas tree lights twinkled in the window, the fire's warm light dissipated the dark corners of the room, and the sun began to creep up from it's nightly resting place.
Everything about last year's advent season reminded me of our long-awaited Savior--the snow that we waited for, which finally came after Christmas...the darker evenings yearning for the light of the morning...my kids waiting for Christmas morning and all the magic that comes with that...the waiting was filled with such hope and expectation.
This year's advent season has been beautiful in its own right. While we are celebrating back in Ghana this year, this time around, I've been going through the advent study that Annie F. Downs put out herself on her website. It has been beautiful and challenging and somehow altogether exactly what I needed! During the hope week, I was challenged to consider how, in a season that feels a little unknown, persevering through develops character which then builds hope. And last week's topic of peace challenged me to stop prioritizing the battles that happen in my home (#teenagers) and push through for peace instead. This week, joy week, I've been thinking a lot more about ways to see joy in places where I usually feel frustration, disappointment, or anxiety.
How are you awaiting Christmas this year? What ways are you desiring hope, peace, joy and love in this season of expectation?