Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vulnerable Peace

The online writing group to which I belong has laid claim to a particular word, to be used as a prompt. Why now? Why this word?

Only the good Lord knows, and I suspect He does, as the hopes and fears of all the years are bubbling up in the peculiar twists and turns of our phrases.

And I have been ruminating, thoughts have been percolating, I have been meditating, which turned to cogitating, on this one observation from the past week. It seems to fit with the prompt, in a way I doubt I fully understand, but hey.

I'm gonna go with it.
With David, my 'baby'

My family, we are touchers. Feelers. It seems to be deeply ingrained in our turning to one another, our assurances of love. When we talk, when we listen, we catch hold of each other. The girls, especially; but it's in the boys as well, though probably a little less natural and uninhibited.

With all the kids home for a few days last week, there was much hugging. Squeezing. Head scratching; seriously, with the girls, we are are prone to sit next to one another and just stroke each others' hair.

I don't know; it sounds crazy as I write this, but it is true. We do this, and it is nothing but an expression of love, a firm place to stand, a declaration that Yes, I am here and I hear you and I am with you and there is this intimate thing between us and we love one another.

I don't know.

I don't think about it much. It just is.

But last week, there was much cuddling. I found myself drawn to the couch, squeezing four of us in when only three should fit. I held them all, one by one, sometimes two at a time, just to sit. To be with. To hold.

At one point, my youngest daughter and I were on the couch, watching television.

I held her hand in mine, and with nothing distracting me - no work to be done, no chores waiting - I was very aware of the surface of her skin. It startled me, the stark contrast between our hands, the curve of our joints, the plane of our flesh. Imagine this, the fresh hands of one who has had a scant 20 years on this earth, compared to mine, which have lived and lifted and cleaned and held and gripped and let go for three decades longer. And there are more miles to go, I know; I held my own mother's hand as we prayed over dinner and understood the path I have yet to travel, she who has two decades and more on me.

But there, I felt my daughter's hand and knew that my hands had once been such. Smooth, lacking the coarse, callused geography.. And my mother's hands; certainly hers were the same at 20, open to promise and adventure and the work ahead.

And her mother's. And so on, so far back that it is almost ridiculous to try to acknowledge it.

My hands have aged. They have held much and let go of even more. With my daughter close to me, her skin and her future bright, taut, uninterrupted, I felt the weight of reality honing in; a sort of recognition of this irreversible, undeniable truth.

I am vulnerable.

My skin is aging, I am losing ground with this body that I have for as-yet unfinished business while on this earth. I am losing a battle that I was never meant to win. I am vulnerable to the waning days, getting along with the passing years in a way suddenly contrasts quite starkly with the smooth skin of a 20-year old girl.

My body will not last. There will come a day when I live no more.

I am vulnerable.

And that is, surprisingly, okay.

See, the surprise here is not the sudden, if somewhat stupefying realization that I am getting older. What shocks me is this:

It's absolutely okay.

Something has happened. I have grown up. Some invisible line has been crossed, some mercy has been cast, and the thing that has long frightened me - being exposed, being unguarded, being susceptible, being out.of.control. - something has propelled me to existence right there in that wide open space. And I am okay.

I cannot help but think of this saying that I have heard in and out of Christian churches for decades; the apostle Paul says that God's power is made perfect in weakness. I've always viewed that line as a connecting point for seeing what God can and will do; it's been a leadership lesson for getting things done. But like everything in this rarefied, newly minted middle-age sensibility in which I find myself, I've got a bit of a fuller perspective these days.

I like what I read in The Message: 

'My strength comes into its own in your weakness'. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.

Each day is a gift. Each day, I am closer to the end of the days allotted me as a frail human. I used to think that acceptance of that knowledge would bring terror.

Instead, there is peace.

In rereading this before posting, it occurs to me that I might be unique in my "sudden" realization that I will not live forever. Maybe that sounds really stupid.

But I submit that I've never really had to consider my mortality, beyond a glancing nod towards the future. Undoubtedly others have sat in this reality in real, quite challenging ways. I pray no offense toward anyone…this was simply my moment of vulnerability and a deep awareness life of the other side of youth. I know many of my friends (and readers, some of whom are both) have battled illnesses and have certainly arrived at this destination in a different manner. Again, I ask for grace and offer gratitude for the parts of the journey that you have shared.

I just wanted to write about holding hands with my daughter.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blue Christmas 2013

I am spent.

Today we kicked off our third service; an 8:28AM option that worked out well for all concerned, but pushed our morning start time back by a good 30 minutes. Which meant that I was up at 5:30AM. Which, for some, is not unusual, but this girl is NOT a fan of early mornings; particularly when I was awake, tossing and turning, until 2AM.

The bad weather (that wasn't really) pushed our annual Blue Christmas service ahead a week, and we met this afternoon to rehearse and prepare. An amazing team of people whose greatest gifts are mercy and kindness were on hand to help set up tables and candles and beautiful things. Several of our artists came early to prepare to live out the presence of God as it happened, by putting it on the wall behind the people with chalk and colors, words and pictures.

We ran music - just Lindsay, Matt and I - and I polished up a song that had been brewing in my heart for several days. Sydni was there to wrap words from the Psalms around the song I wrote.

And we met, with fear and trembling. We worshiped. We sang. Angie delivered a beautiful, poignant, gentle message full of truth and hope and all of the good things Jesus offers, the stuff underneath all the political shouting and theological posturing.




We waited there, and something amazing happened. My head is still spinning, my heart is still clenched, and I am so exhausted that I doubt there is much I could sort out if I tried. But here's what I know; we experienced something new tonight, connecting art beyond music to the expression of our souls. Everyone in the room was invited to write their sorrow on a scrap of paper, as they lit a candle to commemorate the reason they came. The papers collected in beautiful bowls, and then one by one, artists pulled out papers and painted what they saw and felt and heard in the words or pictures they found. While we sang, while Angie taught, they drew.

I believe you're my healer
I believe you are all I need

Candlelight and tears, sniffles throughout the room. Lindsay's powerful voice crying out:

I need a reason to sing
I need to know that you're still holding 
the whole world in your hands…

And all the while, they drew.

At the end, just our voices sang Silent Night, a nod to the traditional hymn of Christmas that did more, somehow, than point to the baby in a manger on what was probably not a silent night. Tonight those words carried more hopes and dreams and sorrow and tears than I'd ever felt before.

Son of God
love's pure light

We finished, and I spoke a benediction:

Go in grace. Go in peace. The author of grace and peace goes with you.

They turned, all of them, and I kept playing, gentle walk-out music. My head was bent, my eyes were closed, as is often the case when the space is holy and sacred. I heard shuffling footsteps, I sensed the haze of candles, still lit.

I heard sobs.

I felt a stillness.

I finally looked up, and they were there, gathered around a wall of chalk scraped across the black. They looked and pointed and stared and touched, they gathered one another to themselves and held on.

They cried.

The service ended, and for 30 minutes after the final song, the healing continued. Crowded together, heads bowed, resonant.

Love's pure light.

Together, our written words found a place to live; sorrow collected. Connected.

Love's pure light.

I've never experienced anything quite like it. Precious and sacred and beautiful; the spirit of community and flesh and spirit. The honesty of vulnerable, raw places opened and exposed with hopeful hands and willing hearts. Artists, holding loosely the pain entrusted to them and mirroring it back to us all as ours.

Will there be a victory? 
Will you sing it over me now?

It was a beautiful, holy, sacred thing. Years and years of "doing church" have dulled my senses, I think. I hate to say it, but it's the truth; I find that few things surprise me anymore.

But this? This was that; a beautiful, glorious, broken surprise.

Love's pure light.

I walked to the wall when it was finally over, 90 minutes after we'd begun, 13 hours after we'd first sound-checked for the day's first service. My chest tightened and my heart expanded, my soul caught in my throat and I could not breathe for the tears. For all that we'd done in the front - the songs, the candles, the words and melodies - nothing matched the power of this, the visual representation of what was actually borne by those in the room.

What a privilege. What a sacred honor.

Love's pure light.

The songs we sang:

Monday, December 9, 2013


"Ours is the God who is drawn to those who feel down. Ours is the God who is attracted to those who feel abandoned. Ours is the God who is bound to those who feel broken." - Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

Central Virginia is an interesting state when it comes to winter weather. Any threat of ice or snow sends the local weathermen into hysterics. Having lived in northeast Ohio for several years, we find this laughable.

Sunday we suffered through a "paralyzing" ice storm that left a lot of moisture on the roads and a few icy patches. It was rather anticlimactic. Of course, those who don't consider the fact that you must drive differently even in mildly icy conditions end up in ditches and become BREAKING NEWS at 11PM. It became an over-hyped, rather lame non-event.

The benefit is this; sometimes the world slows down. We leaned into better-safe-than-sorry and cancelled Sunday morning church services, and local schools had a two hour delay this morning. There was room to breathe, in this span of frigid day into night and day again. 

The ice settled around the landscape; branches and boughs dipped toward the dirt. Some snapped under the weight of the precipitation. The morning looked heavy, burdened; and yet, it glistened.

Lately, I have been contemplating the stories of the Bible as grand metaphors, giving myself permission to sink into the narrative and allow it to expose a new perspective of The God Who Saves. I cannot wrap my head around this, cannot fathom the depth and breadth of a God who Always Was and Always Is and Always Will Be. I can read and believe, I can give assent to intellectual and philosophical content. I can follow. 

But I bump into walls, bang my head against contradictions and controversies and the things for which I simply have no explanation. I think we all do. 

And then we choose. We can bury our heads and stomp our feet and cling to what must be true, stand firm. I have done that. I continue to do that, sometimes.

But I cannot escape this great mystery, that in and around and above and below the stories and the proclamations and the declarations, there is One who was and is, and is to come. 

Not just is to come, but has been here, already, born helpless and hungry. 

Born just like us.

The stories of the gods throughout history are many. Ours is not the only flood story. Ours is not the only exodus. 

But uniquely ours is a God who came to us, who offers rescue. 

It is very, very different. 

The broken, heaviness of our world glistens, like the cedars bearing the burdensome glaze of frozen moisture this morning. It shimmers and shines with hope.

Our salvation has been here. The One who saves, he put on human skin and came.

For us.

Thanks be to God; I just can't get over it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8 - His Presence

'The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.' - Ann Voskamp

If that's not true, I don't know what is.

And it's the truth that I find the hardest to make real, the most difficult to remember. I have lived all these days upon this earth and there are some things I know.

But this...this blessing of presence that fuels and fills; this is the thing that slips beyond my grasp, all too often.

Today, I had the gift of time. Long, luxurious, uninterrupted. And I think to myself that if only I could live like this...then I would feel that I had a life. Something that mattered.

And then I think to myself that is nonsense. Your life matters.

And it does, of course. I do meaningful work.

I'm just not paying attention.

I don't feel like A Woman Who Does Too Much, although it is true; I am always busy, always in motion, always working in snippets and snatches of time. But these days, they feel so differently to me. The ebb and flow of what seems like a grown-up world, where the moments are ordered according to me and my schedule - rather than that of my children - this feels unusual. And freeing. But harder, a difficult freedom.

Here's the problem I am seeing, slowly, as the light of Advent burns just a bit brighter: The real, raw work of motherhood - though it stretched and tore me at times - was manageable and measurable. Place to go, conversations to have, projects to finish. Things To Do, with collaborative feedback and a walking, talking, living evaluation. Tangible results, in the children born to my arms. Granted, I am still a mother; but they are all older, and it is different. The needs are different - not necessarily lessened, but quantitatively on a whole other level.

And so what matters? I see it and feel it, but in fits and spurts. I soak in it when all my offspring surround me. I ache for its absence when they are gone. And when you have five children and the bulk of the last 23 years has been grounded in the raising of those five kids, the sudden 'freedom' opens up to a lot of uncharted territory.

Ann Voskamp quotes Charles Spurgeon in The Greatest Gift"It is no use for you to attempt to sow out of an empty basket, for that would be sowing nothing but wind."

Well aware of that concept, I am. But in these waiting moments, in this Advent, God whispers a new setting for me, a new call to be filled and to be still.

To be with.

To be made new.

This, exactly, is what I need. It is the emptiness, defined.

It is the fullness, promised.

"...lingering enough to really listen - to everything..."

I am waiting.


Here's The Truth


It's Sunday, December 8th. I said I'd be "blogging Advent", by which I meant that I'd blog every day, linking daily to the reading my church is doing (the reading I chose for our church to do). After the success of my daily blog posts in October, I figured I had this.

But it's been three days since I posted last, and my gut is twisting and turning in that weird way. My inner child is whining.

"Nobody really cares. Just drop it."

The other child is full of reminders.

"Here you go again; another on the long list of Things You Don't Finish."

They both need to shut up.

Here's the truth: Although the reading we - I mean I - chose is good and true and solid, the truth is that I am finding it less than inspirational.

The truth is that I am doing a completely different Advent devotional.

I feel incredibly hypocritical, continuing to copy and paste words that just aren't stirring my heart in this particular season. This is not to negate the value of Piper's devotional guide for anyone at all. I may well encounter his writing again next Christmas, or the year after that, and find it fills me. Different strokes for different folks; some things resonate more than others. It's an issue of timing, a seasonal thing.

But the truth is, I have shied away from blogging these last few days because it feels like I'm not telling the truth. And that is not okay; not here, not in this place where the words I choose are those that echo the authenticity of my life, the reality of who I am.

This is so important to me. And here's what I found myself doing, these past few days; hiding, of a sort.

Hiding from myself, from my intentions, from my tendency to play a part rather than be a person.

Writing keeps me healthy, somehow. I'm not a "real writer"; there is nothing of value that returns to me because I cast these vowels and consonants out into the internet. Not a "real writer"; but there is this: Writing keeps me real. I have to do it.

So here's the truth; you can read John Piper's Advent devotional every day. If you can navigate to a blog, you can certainly make your way to the Desiring God website and download Good News of Great Joy. It really is excellent, solid truth. I do highly recommend it.

But me? I'm going to lean hard into the wind and whisper that God seems to be burning into my soul, in this particular season of Advent. I'm going to continue reading Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift, and I'm going to encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself. Even though we're eight days into Advent, you can still join in. I'm going to keep reading, and sit still in my rocking chair as God continues to lead me beside the still waters that soften the hardness of my busy heart. And I will blog what leaks out.

Here's the truth:

I feel freer already.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8.32 (NIV)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 5 - No Detour From Calvary

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2.6-7 

Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8.9).

God rules all things— even motel capacities— for the sake of his children. The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that he said, “He who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16.24).

We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15.20).

To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you go!” (Matthew 8.19). Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8.20).

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.

 John Piper. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December 4 - For God's Little People

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child." Luke 2.1-5 

Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and legal father were living in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town?

Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige?

If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people— the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.

Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world. As Proverbs 21.1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

 John Piper. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent


I love that line, "He is a big God for little people." 

I was struck, as I looked at this photo of my five children in front of our Christmas tree, by a daunting realization: They are big people.

I remember when they were small, tiny, newborn, toddlers, 10-year olds. I remember when the world was yet unknown to them. I remember the days before cars and college and jobs and engagements and independence.

As little people, it was easy to teach them about God. So much of life was out of their hands and beyond their understanding. Childlike faith is a no brainer for a child. They were little, their God was big, and so it was.

As they become big people - physically taking up more space, emotionally maturing, intellectually more astute - the temptation to apply a reductionistic template to faith looms large. God was big when they were small; now they are the big ones, the roles are reversed, and perhaps there is little need for God. They've grown into themselves; perhaps they have grown out of God?

The challenge is to remember - all of us to remember - that we remain, always, the little people in this equation. The universe is vast beyond the stars, even; and He is God beyond our imagination and understanding. He is not a simple God, explainable by political demands or theological boxes. He is, was, and is to come.

Somebody created all this. Somebody holds the reins.

He is a big God; I am a little person.

I stand amazed.
David, once the smallest. Now the tallest.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3 - The Long-Awaited Vistation

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us…” Luke 1.68-71 

Notice two remarkable things from these words of Zechariah in Luke 1.

First, nine months earlier, Zechariah could not believe his wife would have a child. Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense. For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done. Zechariah has learned to take God at his word and so has a remarkable assurance: “God has visited and redeemed!”

Second, the coming of Jesus the Messiah is a visitation of God to our world: “The God of Israel has visited and redeemed.” For centuries, the Jewish people had languished under the conviction that God had withdrawn: the spirit of prophecy had ceased, Israel had fallen into the hands of Rome. And all the godly in Israel were awaiting the visitation of God. Luke tells us in 2.25 that the devout Simeon was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” And in Luke 2.38 the prayerful Anna was “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

These were days of great expectation. Now the long-awaited visitation of God was about to happen— indeed, he was about to come in a way no one expected.

 John Piper. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent


I had a conversation with a friend recently that touched upon some hard things. A family member was struggling with another family member; as my friend confided in me, he shared that he longed to see forgiveness and restoration. It was hard.

We talked about this: that God makes the impossible, possible. That people change.

There is always hope.

I am convinced of this, that any of us who follow Jesus are continually in process. We are changing. If we are not changing, we are static, stuck. We are branches of a vine; we are straining towards a future that should include fruit. Sweetness. Joy. Goodness.

The God we follow is an agent of change. And one of the greatest, most visible proofs is an honest look at our lives - at my life.

We grow. We change. We live. We learn. There is always hope.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2 - Mary's Magnificent God

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. 
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm; 
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones 
and exalted those of humble estate; 
he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and the rich he has sent away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1.46-55 

Mary sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history. The most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.

And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women - one old and barren (Elizabeth), one young and virginal (Mary). And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song - a song that has come to be known as “the Magnificat” (Luke 1.46-55).

Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke’s account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary.

Elizabeth says,“ Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” (Luke 1.43). And Mary says, “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant”  ( Luke 1.48).

The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary - people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.

 John Piper. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent (Kindle Locations 194-200). Desiring God.

Humility - a virtue that is much valued in my line of work. It's a necessity.

I have actually heard someone say, "I'm really humble. I think it's one of my best traits."

I have been tempted to strive to be humble. So that I could be good at it.

True humility is of great worth. God esteems it. And the world needs it.

I consider people I have known who are truly humble, and the powerful impact they have had on my life.

I still can't quite get over the fact that one of the most humble, servant-hearted people I've ever known chose me to be be his wife. I look up to him, as he represents the light of Christ. And I am thankful.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1 - Prepare The Way

"No doubt about it; children are a gift from the Lord..." Psalm 127.3
My children were all home for Thanksgiving; the three who are away at college returned, two with boyfriends in tow. Our house was full.

My heart was full as well. I had eagerly anticipated their arrival, the feast on Thanksgiving day, the familiar banter between siblings.

It was wonderful, as expected. And last night, we began preparing anew. The boys had ventured out to cut down an evergreen; it found a place of honor in the living room. Holding to tradition, we put on the first Harry Connick Christmas album as we hauled down boxes from the frigid attic, examining and exclaiming joy as we open boxes of ornaments and lights.

We decorated the tree; we set the stage. And now we wait.

I'll be blogging Advent this year, connecting personal observations with the "official" Advent Devotional readings PCC is offering. We're using John Piper's Good News of Great Joy. You can read it here on my blog each day, print out a copy of your own here or download it to your Kindle or eReader. 

Advent Devotional For December 1 - Prepare The Way

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1.16-17 

What John the Baptist did for Israel, Advent can do for us. Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared. Its joy and impact will be so much greater if you are ready! 

That you might be prepared… 

First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent meditations help awaken in you a bittersweet sense of need for the Savior. 

Second, engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139.23-24) Let every heart prepare him room…by cleaning house. 

Third, build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home - especially for the children. If you are excited about Christ, they will be too. If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children. 

Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” Jeremiah 23.29 

Gather ‘round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling 

John Piper. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent