I can’t believe Christmas is almost here…again. I have this habit: every year, the day after Christmas I say to myself, “before you know it, it will be Christmas again”. Sure enough, here we are.
I have to be honest, I find parts of this holiday wearing. The biggest frustration I have (and you may share it) is the consumerism of it all. Somehow we (as a culture) have turned a celebration of the arrival of the King of kings into an opportunity for commerce. Not that giving and receiving gifts is a bad thing… it’s just not the main thing. Not by a long shot.
Selena and I have sought to find balance around Christmas, especially now that our daughter is three. She now understands what presents are and rightfully gets VERY excited about receiving them. She knows about Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, Frosty, Christmas cookies, and everything else. We’ve not sheltered her from the secular aspects of Christmas.
We have, however, tried to be very intentional to explain to her the Christian reason for Christmas, which is Jesus of course. We explain to her that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus (though, yes, many scholars say he was likely born during the summer). If you have kids and you’re reading this, you probably aim to do the same. You may find it hard, as we have, to be louder than culture. But there is one thing that consistently cuts through the noise like nothing else: the wonder of the gospel.
If we have a genuine wonder for the arrival, person, and work of Christ, the cultural “wonder” of Christmas can be redeemed and even intensified in our homes in ways that are filled with eternal joy and ultimately God-honoring.
Rekindling the Wonder of Advent
Advent means “arrival”. The Christian tradition of advent is meant to focus our hearts and minds on the weight of God’s intervention in the world through Jesus Christ. Imagine with me for a second…
Before Jesus, Jews were living in a time called “the silence of heaven”. For the 430-ish years prior (that’s like 8 generations), there were no prophets and no voice from heaven was heard. God’s people had always had a direct line to their Creator until suddenly… silence. This must have been jarring for those who first experienced it, then it probably grew into a “new normal” for those who were born and raised hearing of the “good old days” when the people heard God’s voice through the prophets.
God’s people were forgetting what it was like to hear his voice. They were still enslaved by the the Mosaic law, fighting daily for good standing with God — and they were losing the war. It must have been exhausting, and they must have felt hopeless. Except, they did have hope: God had promised over and over again that he would send a Messiah to save them once and for all — a perfect King to rule forever.
Then suddenly, this guy John the Baptist arrives on the scene shouting, “Prepare the way! Our Savior is coming!” (Mark 1:1-7, paraphrased)
Sure enough, Jesus arrived and began his ministry and eventually went to the cross.
Can you imagine their relief?!? It must have been incredible! God was no longer “absent”, His voice no longer silent, and his promise no longer lingering unfulfilled. Their Savior had arrived, and their salvation was now in sight! The same was true when news of the Christ’s birth reached the people of God. That’s what advent is all about: the arrival of our Savior, the faithfulness of God, and the hope we have because of Jesus.
5 Ways Advent Can Transform Your Marriage
Ok, this is a marriage blog, so what does this have to do with your relationship with your spouse? I’d like to point out 5 applications:
1: Advent is all about reconciliation
When Christ arrived, it was for one purpose: to reconcile us to God. He didn’t stay in heaven, he came down. He entered our world to come close.
Reconciliation in marriage requires that we go to one another with the intention of making things right. It requires active forgiveness and the pursuit of the other. Perhaps you’re due for some true reconciliation? Maybe you’ve been holding out on your spouse — holding a grudge — and it’s time you go to them. Christ’s love fuels and motivates this type of reconciliation.
2: Advent is all about loving with generosity
“God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son” (John 3:16), and he did so “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). You know more than anyone that neither you, nor your spouse are perfect. Knowing your imperfection presents you with your greatest opportunity to love each other generously. Advent should remind us of that more than any other time.
3: Advent helps us live more transparently
Love means being utterly exposed and still entirely desired. This is exactly the type of love Christ has shown us. When we experience his grace fully, we’re compelled toward right living. This will lead us to expose and root out sin, but it will also lead us to earnestly seek righteousness; transparency in marriage is a tool help us get there.
Honest transparency happens when you fear God more than you fear man. You realize that God is bigger than your sin, and honoring him is more important than anything that comes from living unrighteously. An inward transformation happens when you’ve experienced radical grace. Advent understood rightly puts you face-to-face with the radical grace of God.
4: Advent helps husbands lead with humility
Speaking to the men here. If we are men transformed by the gospel, there is no other possible response but humility. This humility compels us to love our wives and lead them as our own body, not as separate people, but as part of us.
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Jesus took on the form of a servant when he could have so easily been a “ruler” or dictator. He could have appeared as God and forced everyone to obey him. Instead, he got down in the trenches with us and humbled himself to human life and human death. Understanding the mode by which Christ saved us gives us insight into the humble leadership he displays. As husbands called to “love our wives as Christ loves the church”, how can we not love and lead humbly?
5: Advent helps wives respect & submit securely
(Warning, this grates against culture. Please don’t shoot the messenger.) For the wives, Christmas can help you remember that it’s honorable to honor your husband and respectable to respect him. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, not because he was weaker or lesser, but because it was how the Father chose to redeem his people. So often, reading Ephesians 5 causes us to wince in agony because it’s counter-cultural. Read this passage against the backdrop of Western culture:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Advent should remind wives that submission is not a sign of weakness when your identity is in Christ. It’s not a sign of less worth or value! Was Jesus worth less because he submitted to the Father’s will? Not in the slightest. The Father and the Son are different, yes, but equal. The same is true for husband and wife.
Celebrate this Christmas with everything you’ve got!
Much like God’s people, we forget God’s promise to redeem us. Advent/Christmas is the best time to be reminded! Remember how cherished, loved, and valued you are to God. Even more than that, remember how faithful, gracious, and utterly good God is.
When we put consumerism aside and remember the true value of this season, everything else has context and becomes richer because of Jesus — your marriage included. The gifts you give and receive can be reminders of the gift you’ve received in Christ and how you can give to others because of him. The food you eat can be a reminder of the perfect and generous provision of God in Christ. And the time you spend with family can remind you of how graciously patient God is with his beloved children (even the awkward, weird ones).
Our prayer is that your home overflows with joy this Christmas season. With Christ at the center of your celebration, it inevitably will.