But here's the truth: when life gets busy, our spiritual habits should increase, not decrease.
After the last few years, there seems to be something missing from the holiday season when it rolls around. Something feels off or different; maybe it is the heaviness that we all seem to be carrying around with us, making joy feel like another chore to add to our exhausting holiday routine.
As believers, we exert a great deal of effort to keep Christ at the center of our lives. We attend church, read our Bibles regularly, and pray. We practice spiritual habits to keep our hearts set on the Gospel because spiritual habits shape our spiritual relationship.
These spiritual habits require intention. We have to make the time to incorporate them into our daily lives. However, during the busy season of the holidays, our spiritual habits are usually the first thing we remove from our list, prioritizing grocery lists, party invitations, and ordering gifts.
But here's the truth: when life gets busy, our spiritual habits should increase, not decrease. While it seems obvious in the Christmas season to make spiritual discipline a priority because the season is about Christ, here we are–slaves to secular demands that drain our souls and push the King of Kings to the background.
The Discipline of Advent
I have long considered Advent a spiritual discipline. It requires us to focus and be intentional in the busyness of life. Advent may be an annual practice for you or a spiritual discipline you never thought of.
However, before we look at how to implement Advent as a spiritual practice, we must first understand what it means and why we participate in it during the Christmas season.
Advent is a season known throughout the world. It is known through most denominations and is practiced amongst many believers during the Christmas season. Yet, there is much about Advent that we do not know or even grasp a full understanding of, missing spiritual truths of the season.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus and the Greek parousia. This word is used both for the coming of Christ in the flesh and the second coming of Christ in the future.
Traditionally, the first two weeks of Advent were designated as looking forward to the future return of Christ. The time yet to come when Christ will return to earth and rule and reign as the King of Kings.
The second two weeks of Advent traditionally focus on the first coming of Christ in the manger. This time allows us to rest in the peace of the Savior who has come and to worship Him for the gift of salvation He brought with Him.
The Advent season is reflective of who we are as a Church, waiting for Christ to come again. We are in the “last days.” We have been in these days since the ascension of Christ. Since Christ ascended, the church has waited for His return and chooses to celebrate what will come to pass.
The how of Advent is a bit simpler because there are no rigid rules to follow.
The spiritual practice can look any way you would like. It takes place daily for four weeks prior to Christmas. The ultimate goal is being in the Word. There are several ways to add this practice to your life during the season of Advent.
If you are new to Advent, no problem! Let's look at five simple ways to incorporate Advent into your Christmas worship:
1. An Advent Bible Study
Advent Bible studies are not in short supply. Some of the greatest theologians have penned works about the season. There are many to be found at your local Christian bookstore covering everything from the traditional Christmas story to a more focused topic like the people of Scripture.
Of course, a Bible study isn’t required, simply reading through one of the Gospels in the month of December will be enough to keep your heart and mind centered. As a beginner, I would recommend this route over a study. Keep it simple, read one chapter of Luke daily leading up to Christmas.
2. Scripture Memory
This is one of my favorite things to do through the season of Advent. I will focus on a verse per week, sharing it with my family, printing it, and keeping it close by. This is a helpful practice as it allows me to meditate and memorize verses. This is a great tool, especially if you are extremely busy.
Read the verse or verses first thing in the morning, read them while you are getting ready, read them when you get in the car, read them before meals, on breaks, etc. They can be left all around your home or workspace, ready to be read at any time. It will keep the Word of God constantly in the front of your mind.
3. Family Devotions
If you have children in the home, developing a family Advent plan can help hold everyone accountable to the Word. This can be done around the table at dinner or when bedtime rolls around. This could consist of reading through the Bible together, asking questions, and even practicing Scripture memory with them.
If your children are young, look for resources that help them focus on the small things. Talk about the nativity scene, grab some kids' Advent verse cards, or even a storybook Bible. Make it accessible to them no matter their age.
4. Advent Candle-Lighting
Traditionally, Advent includes the lighting of candles each Sunday. I know many families who will light a candle each night at dinner through Advent before sharing Bible study time together. The Advent wreath has candles that represent different themes of the season, such as love, peace, hope, and joy. Lighting a candle each night builds anticipation for the celebration of the Christ child. It is symbolic of the Advent season as we wait on the Lord. We are anticipating the coming of Christ not just at Christmas but at His second coming.
Another practice that is common in Advent is fasting. Fasting isn’t always related to food, but it is abstaining from something in order to keep our minds focused on God.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate fasting into my Advent season is logging off of social media from Thanksgiving through the New Year. The reason for this is that social media often drains my time, and in a season that is already limited on time, something has to go. This a great way to disconnect, and I promise you won’t even miss it.
Whether you choose one of these practices to incorporate into your Advent or come up with something on your own, don’t forget that simple is best. There is no need to overwhelm yourself with more things to do; only add to your Advent practice what you know you realistically have time to give.
For our family this year, we are headed back to the basics and focusing on Advent around our family table. As our children are getting older, we can teach them to practice spiritual habits and cling to what is good, even in the rush of Christmas.
Our hearts should be set on drawing closer to Christ as we finish the year well.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Westend61
Michelle Rabon is a wife and homeschooling mom of three who feels called to help women thrive in their walk with Jesus every day. In 2012, she started Displaying Grace, a ministry that is focused on helping women engage with God’s Word. Michelle has also served in women’s ministry for the past five years seeking to equip women in the local church through Bible study. When she is not writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, being close to the ocean, and drinking a lot of coffee.