“…and it was always said of [Scrooge], that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”
Many of us are familiar with those closing words from Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. But what, exactly, does it mean to keep Christmas? The answer is complicated by the fact that Christmas in our culture means a lot of different, and at times conflicting things. It can mean…
- Children wearing bathrobes and paper crowns in a Christmas play at church.
- Celebrating the first snow flurries of the season.
- Stringing popcorn for a Christmas tree.
- Assembling toys at 11:45 PM on Christmas Eve while watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
- Driving hundreds of miles to spend a couple days with extended family only to replay that same argument with a sibling that you had five Christmases ago.
- Waiting in a long checkout line— fantasizing about strangling the composer of Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.
- Waiting 30 minutes with a fidgety 4-year-old in order to see Santa Claus at the mall—and then spending $39.95 for a blurry photo.
- Going to bed on December 24th dreaming of a white Christmas and waking up to brown grass, sunshine, and 50°.
C.S. Lewis helped answer the question by pointing out that there are at least three different things that go by the name of Christmas in our culture:
Three things go by the name of Christmas: One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; The second is a popular holiday, an occasion for merrymaking and hospitality. But the third thing called Christmas is…of course the commercial racket… the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers.
C.S. Lewis condemned the “commercial racket” for many reasons but ultimately because it is “one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things.” [What CHRISTMAS means to me… From God in the dock—Essays on Theology and Ethics by C. S. Lewis, published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. © 1970 The Trustees of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, first appearing December, 1957.]
Sadly, our culture has made Christmas a celebration of materialism, Santa Claus, and favorite holiday recipes. But it is my hope and prayer that this Advent guide will help point you to the true meaning of Christmas: a reflection on the coming of our Redeemer King and Savior.
What Is Advent? The English word advent comes from the Latin, adventus, which means coming. Its Greek equivalent is the word parousia—a word typically associated today with Christ’s Second Coming.
The season of Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year and ends with Christmas Eve.
While we now associate Advent with the celebration of Christ’s first coming, centuries ago it focused on Christ’s Second Advent.
If you stop to consider the circumstances of the present day as we await the Second Advent, and those of the years leading up to that First Advent, there are some striking parallels. At the end of the Old Testament era Israel was a people who had endured exile only to become strangers in their own land. They were waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah. Their hope was based on the witness of history that testified to the power and faithfulness of God.
Today, as God’s people live in the Last Days, we too await the coming of the Messiah. And like Israel of old, our hope is based on the power and faithfulness of God.
That great Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” speaks for God’s people everywhere:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
While Israel would have sung that hymn in expectation of Christ’s first coming, today God’s people, the Church, sing both in remembrance of Christ’s first coming and in expectation of His return.
Over the course of these daily devotionals you will read virtually all of the Old and New Testament texts that relate directly to Christ’s First Advent. After each reading I will share some thoughts about the text followed by a few questions designed to provoke further thought. These questions can also be used to stimulate group discussions about these readings.
I hope you find this guide fulfilling.