What is Advent?

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Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus.  It is a looking forward.  It is a time of preparation. Think of the preparation that Mary was in, as she traveled to Bethlehem.  It is like the way we prepare for marriage (the waiting is a time of engagement); it is like we prepare for company coming over (we put things in order…we ready our hearts and our home). Whether we prepare for change or not, it comes.

Jesus came to a people who were awaiting Him—they had been looking for Him for centuries—but were not prepared to meet Him.  God’s people missed His arrival, dodged His impact.  And daily Jesus is still at work fulfilling the Promises God made to His people.  Daily, whether or or not we are prepared for Him to do so, Jesus comes.  Advent is the practice of making ourselves ready to receive the gift of Jesus, a gift we have available to us every day.  Advent revisits the looking forward to the birth of our Savior and sets the stage for His second coming.

Our culture has replaced this season of waiting with a season of shopping.  Instead of awaiting the Savior, shoppers count down days in an ever spiraling crescendo of consumption.  We get our fill of eating, drinking, being merry, shopping, and exchanging gifts and gift cards under the lighted tree.

Jesus said, “I AM the Bread of Life,” (John 6:35), and He promised to give Living Water to all who would drink it (John 4:14).  He also said, “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12).  Jesus has what we need this busy season: He came to bring us peace (John 16:33) and the potential for a life of abundance (John 10:10).  Most of all He came so that we might have peace with God (Acts 10:36). Observing Advent is meant to slow us down so we can see that He is all the gift we need.

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The Liturgical Calendar: Walking the Year in Worship

walking through the christian year 700 bannerThis summer I wrote my very first book eBook. And I really enjoyed the process, mostly because, for once, I didn’t have to try to wrap everything up in 500 words or less. Sweet! But more profoundly, I got a glimpse at how God has woven together His Word, with my experiences, to teach me Truths about Himself. Powerful.

I shared what I have learned about God on my journey in Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles that Lead Us Back to the Father:

Prodigal Principle #1: God is a gracious, generous Father.

Prodigal Principle #2: Sin rejects the Father’s generosity.

Prodigal Principle #3: Sin doubts God’s goodness/wisdom/power. Truth crushes sin.

Prodigal Principle #4: Rebellion is rooted in rejection of the Father’s rightful authority.

Prodigal Principle #5: Confession agrees with God.

Prodigal Principle #6: The Spirit in us, plus the Word, teaches us to walk in obedience.

Prodigal Principle #7: Obedience yields freedom, peace, and joy.

Prodigal Principle #8: Repentance leads to rescue and restoration.

Prodigal Principle #9: Reconciliation moves us from pain to purpose.

Prodigal Principle #10: We were created to retell the Gospel Story well.

The last principle confirmed for me that this little, wistful wondering about following the church calendar was leading me in the right direction. See, I love, love, love our church now – totally amazing Pastor, authentic fellowship and deep community, beautiful worship – but I’ve missed Advent, Pentecost, Lent, Palm Sunday…

Bobby Gross explains the church calendar in this way:
“To embrace Jesus is to be reconciled with God and to consciously step into his Story. And to follow Jesus is to have the shape and purpose of our lives conformed to the shape and purpose of his. So we choose to deny ourselves, to no longer lives centered on ourselves as out culture urges, but to live in allegiance to him who died for us…we want to inhabit the still-unfolding Story of God and have it inhabit and change us. And this is exactly what the ancient liturgical habit of living the Christian year helps us to do” (p. 16, Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God*).

Liturgical. It’s about worship. Shouldn’t our time (our year) be marked by worship? This is not to say that you have to follow the church calendar to live liturgically, only that it is one way to invite worship.

For some, the church calendar has been forced on them, or it has become a legalistic trap they have laid for themselves. Obviously, either situation would defeat the purpose of worship! Thankfully, our pastor has encouraged us to pursue this way at home, as a family, and we are sharing our experiences with him.

I believe that framing my year around God’s Story, rather than trying to fit His story into mine, will enrich my walk with Him. If this proves to be true, this experience could create some wonderful family traditions for us.

I began with the Revised Common Lectionary, which is the most common source for weekly scripture readings (used Protestant churches who follow the church calendar). I have made some changes to suit our needs, but ultimately we are reading God’s Word, ordered in such a way as to retell the events in the life of Jesus and of the Early church.

The scripture calendar is available in its entirety, as a PDF download, to subscribers of the newsletter Walking Through the Christian Year (click here to join us). I will post scriptures daily Sun-Friday, during Advent and a bit less frequently afterward (until the Season of Lent). From November 30 through December 24, my family will read the day’s scripture and light the candle(s) on the Advent wreath, just before dinner.

The liturgical calendar begins with Advent. As I have said, this year the first day of Advent (and of the Christian Year) falls on November 30. So for fun, you could tell your family “Happy New Year!” a little earlier than usual.

Next time, more about the Season of Advent, resources, scripture reading plan!

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* This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click on a link and purchase a product (for which I am an affiliate), I will receive compensation from the seller, at no cost to you.

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The Thanksgiving Baby: A Beautiful Adoption Story

My friend Kristin Hill Taylor was so kind to share this good word with us today.  Her new book is an inspiration!  Kristin’s family came together through not one, but two, wonderful adoption stories.  Beyond the beauty that is revealed in the hearts of the birth mothers (get out your kleenex), Kristin reveals her own heart’s journey, and that might have been my favorite part.  You can see this verse at work in her life: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  

Peace in the Process - low resOn Saturday, November 21, 2009, my sister-in-law Angela asked me what my perfect timing would be for Ben to be born. Leigh, my son’s birth mom, had been on bed rest because he’d threatened to come early, so we were glad he was still inside growing at 38-plus weeks. I answered Angela’s question honestly: Sunday or Monday.

Well, Monday started with me going with Leigh to a check-up appointment. We learned she was 5-6 centimeters dilated. Given that she had initially dilated two months earlier, we were happy to be just eight days from his due date. Our doctor friend was confident he’d deliver our son soon and wanted Leigh to get ready for delivery.

Turns out, he was right.

After Leigh and I made necessary arrangements met at the hospital.

Benjamin Lucas was born November 23, 2009, three blocks from our house. His sister, who was almost 31 months old, was thrilled to welcome him into our family. Once again God knew the desires of our heart and fulfilled them in his time. He showed us his faithfulness in such a tangible way. This time it came into the world at 2:56 p.m. the Monday before Thanksgiving, weighing 7 pound 10 ounces and with a head full of dark hair.

Leigh was a champ. She was holding my hand during delivery, but she rarely really squeezed it. I could tell a couple times leading up to the delivery she was really hurting, but she grinned and beared it. She never complained and told me thank you a couple of times.

Really.

Um, no, thank you. Really, that’s all I kept thinking. THANK YOU, Leigh. THANK YOU, God.

Once Ben was born, the nurse took him to a neighboring room to clean him up, which was Leigh’s preference. After hugging Leigh multiple times, Greg and I followed the nurse, who carried our son. She tended to him and then we held him. This great nurse even was good with the camera and took a picture that turned out to my favorite from the day.

Even with the celebration, I knew there was heartache for Leigh: “I grieved as any mother would do after delivery and losing her child. It was a feeling of being torn apart because even though I knew it was the right decision, it was still hard to let him go. I cried for many days and still do every now and then, but I still know it was the right thing and wouldn’t change my decision for anything,” Leigh said years later. “I think that adoption is a great idea for any mother who might have reservations about having a child at a bad time in their life. I’ve never believed in abortion, and to give someone a child that might not be able to have one or that might be able to give them better opportunities in life is wonderful.”

The nursing staff arranged for us to have a room, so we went there while the nursery staff did the things they do to newborns. A nurse who had been Greg’s elementary school bus driver years earlier brought Ben to us and then Greg’s parents brought Cate to meet her brother.

A family of four. How blessed we truly were … and are.

the thanksgiving babyFive years ago, Ben’s first outing was on Thanksgiving to my in-law’s house, where the turkey was 2.75 times my boy’s weight. After being unsure if I would become a momma, having a second child in a way only God could orchestrate makes me especially thankful. He’ll forever be my Thanksgiving baby – which is quite appropriate, really. Ben’s birth story is an excerpt from “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family,” which is available on Amazon and tells about the hard season of infertility that led to two adoption processes and the days since.

KristinHillTaylor - head shotKristin Hill Taylor lives in Murray, Kentucky, with her college sweetheart husband and their two kids. She believes in taking road trips, living in community, and seeking God as the author of every story – many of which she shares at www.kristinhilltaylor.com.

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Are We Still Celebrating Thanksgiving This Year?

Brittalafont.com Turkey DayI love JoAnn Fabric, but yes, I did see the Christmas stuff going up in early October.  Who are these super organized people that are shopping for Christmas 3 months in advance?  It is surely not me they are trying to tempt.  I totally forgot to buy Halloween Candy this year.  Halloween snuck up on me, people.

I see a rising resentment about Thanksgiving not getting its props, not getting the attention it deserves. And I understand this feeling. But rather than jumping on that band wagon, I am going rogue on Thanksgiving this year.  And for once, it is not for lack of planning!

This year November is not just about Thanksgiving to me…because I am preparing for Advent. Yes, we will have turkey on the last Thursday of the month.  Yes, we are thankful.  Yes, we are patriotic Americans…we really are (surely being a military family gives us some cred?).

Still.  Thanksgiving is taking a backseat to Advent in our house because this year we are deliberately observing the church calendar.  We are paying particular attention to and celebrating the events in the life of Christ and in the Early Church.

Yes, I will bake pies on Wednesday, November 26.  We will eat Turkey and mashed potatoes on Turkey Day.  We will watch the Thanksgiving Day parade and football games and wish we hadn’t eaten so much.

And if you want to totally blow out Thanksgiving all month long, if you don’t observe Advent, that is perfectly alright too!  This liberty, or freedom to celebrate Advent (or not celebrate it), comes from living in relationship with Christ.  Celebrating Advent will not be done at out house to gain favor with God.  Christians already have His favor, not because of what we have done, but because of what has been done for us.

In Advent, we are just trying this new thing…going a little deeper than we have before.  We will HEAR (or read) what God’s Word says about preparing for Christ’s coming and we will be intentional daily to experience (or DO) the things that prepare our hearts to celebrate His arrival.   You know how important it is to hear and do!

This week, just before the last week in November, I am getting my supplies for my Advent centerpiece, with candles.  I am planning our scripture readings.  I am putting together a list of wonderful Advent resources for YOU.  And I am contemplating what it means to prepare your heart for the coming of Christ.

I guess I am a bit like JoAnn Fabric.  I am in pre-Advent mode rather than Thanksgiving mode.  The Church calendar is all new to me.  It’s not that I haven’t celebrated Advent at church before.  And Lent.  And Pentecost.  And more. I have just never taken the initiative to Walk Through the Christian Year for the sake of immersing myself in the Gospel Story.  Until this year.

I would love for you to join me on this journey!  Please subscribe my newsletter for Walking Through the Christian Year.  Subscribers will have exclusive access to a resource page that features:

  • A printable for the nightly Advent Readings
  • Links to websites that are sharing ideas and books about celebrating Advent
  • Suggestions for the busy mommy, including an Advent devotional
  • Fun ideas for celebrating with the kids
  • Recipes
  • Decorating ideas
  • More!!!

I will be sharing these resources on the blog, throughout the month.  But if you want to stay a step ahead of the season and have access to everything in one place, even before it appears on the blog, you need to sign up for the newsletter now!

Tell me, do you follow the Church Calendar in your church?  In your house?

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“Thanks Mom!” A Kids’ Christmas Book Giveaway

Giveaway CollageY’all.  You can tell we are getting closer to the Holiday season because even the Internet is feeling generous.  Speaking of generous, I need to tell you that the Our Everyday Favorites winner is Hope, from Bethel Park, PA — congratulations, Hope!

And today, I am sharing with you another giveaway, but you can’t hit snooze button on this one!  You only have until Monday, November 17 to sign up.  You can find the details further down below…

This giveaway is the perfect time for me to share with you about the next big thing here on the blog.

In my life as a military brat, now military wife, I attended a variety of Christian churches. Some followed the church calendar, some didn’t. The wonderful church we attend now doesn’t, but our pastor encouraged my husband and me to observe the Christian calendar at home with our kids.  And that is just what we are going to do!

I am excited to share with my children this beautiful way of marking time.  We will follow the rhythm of the life of Christ and the Early Church instead of the rhythm of the retail calendar, the school calendar, or the Federal Holiday calendar.

We will begin Walking Through the Christian Year, with the Season of Advent (starts Sunday November 30).  I found a good resource for observing the seasons of Christian calendar called Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, (amazon link) by Bobby Gross.

We are planning to share devotional scripture readings with the kids, nightly as we light our Advent candle.  I will give you a preview next week.  For now, take a look at some bee-u-ti-ful Advents Wreaths on Pinterest!

In addition to our Advent candle lighting, and Advent calendar, our family plans to do a special Advent activity each week.  There are so many ways to keep Christ in Christmas and to observe (or see) the Gospel in our everyday lives.  Next week, I will share a new Advent devotional for moms, a Printable with scripture readings for your Advent candle lighting, some fun Advent and Christmas kids’ activities, and so much more!  I hope you will join me as we Walk Through Advent!

Sign up for the Walking Through the Christian Year Newsletter to get started!

The Giveaway:

My friend LeeAnn wanted to get us all in the Christmas spirit, so she collected some little helpers (bloggers) to join her. And we are all so excited to share these children’s Christmas books with you!

LeeAnn is giving away: A Donkey’s Little Tale, The Manger Mouse, and Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands
Gennie is giving away: The Polar Express
Ashley is giving away: The Berenstain Bears – The Joy of Giving
Susana is giving away: What is Christmas?
Britta (that’s me!) is giving away: The Adventure of Christmas – Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions
Nelle is giving away: The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet

One lucky person will win them all! To have a chance to win, enter using the rafflecopter widget below. (Click here to enter if you can’t see the widget.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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