Does it feel too dark today? No I don’t mean the sun setting early. I mean does it just seem dark? Like life is a little more dull this year?
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine about all the people we know who have lost their lives this past year. He said he was talking to parents about it and they said just wait it only gets harder. As we age death stops being something that is just people you know of or heard of but people you have a deep long lasting relationship with. Death and Darkness can capture your friends, your spouse, and unthinkably even your kids. This is the first year for me in a long time that my heart is heavy for those who have lost loved ones. I don’t know what makes this year different, beyond longer and deeper relationships with people who were lost, but I know I feel the weight of it. That darkness seems to have crept in everywhere.
Last week I contracted Co-vid. Thankfully it was a fairly mild case. Yes I was in bed for about 3 days with fever and coughing and had to be away from my family with a mask on in my house, but I was OK. In the midst of the isolation of it all my family and others were helpful in making me comfortable and thankful came out of this with very little issues. I did miss out on something I love to do this time of year. I love doing all the decorating for Christmas. For those who don’t know I love to decorate for Christmas. My wife hates to decorate. She likes the decorations put up, but doesn’t like doing the work of putting it all up. Last weekend when I was in bed hurting she set up the whole house. We went from a place of darkness to light.
This year our tree was a little bit different because my wife was doing the tree. This year she added two more strands of lights. I will say this because it has been a bit of an issue in our lives for a decade. She wants more light and I think we have enough on the tree and should have more for outside. She was right! The tree inside this year needed way more lights. I was struck as I sat by the tree how much I needed that light. We needed an extra strand this year.
So how about you? Are you sitting in too much darkness? Are you sitting in a place where you don’t have enough light in your life? We are in the season of Advent a time to remember we have a God who has come into our darkest places and brought us to his dominion of light of His Son. In these days of despair find places you can see light. (no not on the tree) Find places in God’s word, find places in God’s house, find places with God’s people to be reminded of the light in places that seem too dark.
When I was a kid I remember all sorts of catalogs of toys especially this time of year. We would often get the big toys r us book around Christmas and circle all the things we wanted to get. We were so excited when it came. We probably circled 200 items in the whole catalog. It probably would have been easier if we had just crossed off the things we didn’t want.
What I found most amazing was often when I got that one toy I so wanted for Christmas sometimes it didn’t work out the way I tought it would. Maybe it wasn’t as big as I had hoped or it didn’t look as shiny up close. We all have expectations and sometimes those expectations aren’t realized because they aren’t the right expectation.
This week as I was preparing for Chapel I was reading the text from Luke 2:1-7. It is the simple story of Jesus birth. What jumped out at me was this story is not something that people expected. At least most Jews didn’t expect it to go down this way. Here is some of the unexpected that maybe you just ran over on your way to finishing the text.
He was born in the city of David Bethlehem. First of all the city of David in the old testament would have been Jerusalem. His City was Jerusalem. To hear him being born in Bethlehem was shocking. This was a tiny little back woods town of maybe 200-300 people. This is crazy the king of kings born in such a place.
Or how about the wrapped in clothes a lying in a manger. Ok this takes some explaining. How come no castle? How come not a palace, and beautiful bed? Well he was placed in the feeding area for the animals in the small one room house. Such a humble beginning for the prince of peace.
Wow unexpected for the king of the universe yet it is how He came. It is how God fulfilled His promise. It is how God is working in the lives us his people. God will fulfill his promises. He fills them in unexpected ways but he always fulfills his promises.
Jesus makes two other promises at the end of his life. He promises to be with us to the ends of the age and He promises to come again. Does God being with us always make sense or always look the way we want it. Probably not. But we have a God who fulfills his promises yesterday today and always.
So my family has never been really good at spending time in Gods word each night. Heck I haven’t ever been very good at doing personal devotions but I know it is my responsibility to be the leader of my household and passing on faith to my children. We as a family are not super consistent and fail to do it every day but try to be faithful. So why is advent any different…Well it isn’t but it is a great time for get you family involved in prayer and devotion.
During Advent you have some very real opportunities to get you family involved in family devotions. It can be a time for everyone to spend time together. We have used this time because their are so many opportunities to share your faith with your family. It is a time you can get gather together to share the good news of Jesus and his coming.
So why is advent such a good time…well first you have a plethora of different devotionals put out by a number of great organizations and groups. Pick one and go for it. It should be short and should be pointing you to Jesus and his coming. You have advent calendars with ….chocolate! This can help you think about the anticipation of Advent. You also have children who after thanksgiving your children are looking forward to the eager anticipation of Christmas presents… well that is not really helpful. Lastly and my personal favorite is the advent wreath. It is a time to remind us of the light and anticipation for the Coming of Jesus again. You can talk about the hope we have in Jesus. It is just a great way for families to involve children in the devotional moment. My children are now asking about how they can be involved in the devotions. They light and blow out the candles, say the prayers, read the devotions and preform the blessings.
This leads me to my last and final point. Get your children involved. A few weeks ago I lead a advent devotional program at Church for school families and shared with them ways to get the kids involved. I even gave them an outline I would like to share here. (I actually think this a variation on faith inkubators family five)
Invocation in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit, (My 5 year old daughters favorite part is doing the sign of the cross over the whole family and then herself.)
Highs and Lows for the day
Bible reading (Kids take turns reading the short devotion or Bible verse)
Prayers (sometime items from Highs and Lows, sometimes Lord’s prayer, apostles creed of 10 commandments)
Blessing Anything would work but we use (The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all) Again the sign of the cross to remind us of the blessing of our baptism.
So with all that being said don’t think of this as a law moment. This isn’t about guilt or look at how well we do it. This is about spending time in the Word of God to help your family grow in faith. May Christ bless you this year as you eagerly await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.