…when family Advent Devotions FAIL! This piece first appeared in the FOL Covenant Church newsletter in November 2019.
This picture shows the moment before a major Family Advent Devotions FAIL. That year, I had actually prepared some little lessons–like Children’s Sermons at home, complete with object lessons. This one was about having room in our hearts for Jesus. In my imagination, I poured out some water into the full cup, and a few drops dribbled over. The girls would giggle and absorb the lesson that if your life is too full, there’s no room for Jesus. That was in my imagination. In reality, what happened is that my children screamed in fury. They were cold, wet, and convinced that they had been BETRAYED by their own mother. For days–and then for years–that moment was brought up as an example of maternal breach of trust. I will probably never live it down.
A lot of the things we plan to do with our children around Christmas time do “fail,” don’t they? People are tired and cranky and distracted, we make mistakes, children don’t get the point… Whether planned or spontaneous, my efforts rarely have the glow I imagined they would. The good news is, it’s not actually my job to make it “work,” or to make everyone happy or worshipful, or to fix deep spiritual truths in others’ hearts. The Holy Spirit will do what needs to be done. My job as a parent is to hold open that one breath of a moment when our family can “draw near” to God. My job as a parent is to model putting aside stress and being present with my family in the presence of God.
The Crosswalk team is putting together a display of Advent ideas for families, after church on November 19. Everyone can come and look at Advent wreaths, Jesse trees, creche figures, and devotionals. We can talk about crazy things that have worked for our families (running/dancing laps around the Oriental rug while singing Christmas carols was a hit for us!). You might dream up a couple of things that would be fun to try this year, whether you are a planner or a spontaneous type.
But the truth is, it’s not what traditions or new ideas you choose that matters. What matters is whether you make a few minutes of focus to be with your children in the presence of God. This terribly busy season of the year is a perfect time to demonstrate to our children that God is more important than any stress, and that no busy-ness or stress can keep us away from him. Here is how they really see that “if your life is too full, there’s no room for Jesus”: they see us putting aside our work and making time to draw near, even when it means not getting everything done.
Perhaps candles and homemade decorations will happen this year, and perhaps they won’t. Perhaps some of our efforts will end in tears and meltdowns. But no matter what happens, nothing can stop us from looking in our children’s eyes and praying with them. And when we make even five minutes of “room,” Jesus will fill us up.
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