It's the first day of Advent and I am not completely prepared to do all the devotionals and activities with the kids that I wanted. But I decided to take a deep breath and not stress over it. Oh man, how much time I have wasted in worry and stress over too many things through the years! And if I stress about Advent I will obviously miss out on the beauty of this season. It is very easy to get caught up in the culture's idea of what Christmas is and yet I think sometimes, we as Christians, can almost go overboard the other way. When the kids were young we (like many Christian families) started the tradition of three gifts for the kids. Because...you know...that's what baby Jesus got and this would be a great "teachable moment" for our kids. And we still do three gifts for our kids and I'm not saying it was a bad choice. However, there is always the tension of what it means to be in the world, but not of the world.
I believe that the Christmas season is for celebrating, for gift giving, for decorating...for splendor. It doesn't mean that I have given into the commercialism of Christmas when I put up a tree, decorate for Christmas throughout the house, buy or make gifts, set the table with our china. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, "Nothing has done more damage to the Christian view of life than the hideous notion that those who are truly spiritual have lost all interest in this world and its beauties. The Bible says , 'God...endows us richly with all things to enjoy.' It also says, 'Do not set your heart on the godless world or anything in it.' It is all together fitting and proper that we should enjoy things made for us to enjoy. What is not at all fitting and proper is that we should set our hearts on them. Temporal things should be treated as temporal things-- received, given thanks for, offered back, but enjoyed. They must not be treated like eternal things."
I love that thought from Elisabeth Elliot because I am drawn to a simplistic lifestyle. And a lot of times in one's pursuit of a simplistic lifestyle comes this legalistic thinking that if you enjoy material possessions or...woah...a beautifully decorated Christmas tree that you've jumped off the deep end and are swimming over your head in the depths of this culture.
I cannot think of a more fitting time for lights, decorations, glitter, delicious food, and fine china than celebrating the birth of Jesus. I know that God looks at my heart and not my adorned and festive decor, but I also do not believe that enjoying this season with splendor is a sin.
So today Dave and I took a walk on the back of the farm and cut some pine branches and tomorrow we will begin filling our home with decorations. My desire is to take our time and savor the moments of this Advent season and to celebrate the truth that God loved us so much he gave his Son to rescue us.