In case you missed it, I'm a Christmas fanatic, y'all. I have been since I was teeny tiny. I've always been an excited, antsy mess for all the twinkling lights, the parties and fellowship, the festive music, the presents, the decorating. 

But it was always more than just those things. Those aspects of this season have always symbolized something much greater--something much more REAL to me. When I was growing up, I remember wondering what it was about Christmas that sparked so much excitement in my heart. I had relatives who were proud to skip the festivities, claiming that none of the excitement of the season had anything to do with the Messiah in the manger. 

People have different convictions and we are all spoken to in unique ways, but for me, this could not be more untrue. As the Christmases continue to go by, I am more and more convinced that the festivity of the season is the most fitting way to annually spend time rejoicing in the good news Christmas holds. 

Deep calls to deep. This season calls to the deepest, truest parts of who we are and what we were made for. The nativity narrative never loses its effect, because it will always proclaim how very deeply loved and valued we are--so much, that Love came down. God became man, the Word became flesh--Heaven dwelt among us. YOU GUYS. Does that not leave you slack-jawed?! What a miracle, what a mystery! What a beautiful, exciting reality! I can't think of any better reason to throw lights up on our houses and trees, to give and to receive, to eat and drink and laugh and ponder with friends and with family! Let's get this party started, year after year after year, that we might never lose the wonder and joy of this good news!

So Ryan and I have decided to make this a season of celebration and reflection, and to foster traditions that are always pulling us back to joy and reminding us of the rich meaning of Christmas:

  • Since we were dating, we've always taken a nighttime walk through our university, Hardin-Simmons, all lit up and festive! 
  • There's the little things, like how we only wrap our presents as "brown paper packages tied up with string," or how we always, always, always watch Elf, at least twice, or how we definitely watch every Christmas episode of The Office, or how we only order holiday drinks at Starbucks when they have them in stock. 
  • We throw ourselves a little party when we decorate the house for Christmas (a Voss family tradition) no later than the week before Thanksgiving (a Shelly-insisted-upon-tradition), and always carefully arrange all the figurines in the Willow Tree nativity my mama got us for our wedding across our mantle.
  • Last year, the women's minister at our church started the tradition of publishing an Advent devotion, comprised of the reflections of men and women of our church family. This year, we started the tradition of reading each day's devotional before bed. 
  • And yesterday, we began the tradition of Advent candles. We have them on our kitchen table (also our dining room table, we ain't fancy), and after church, we sat down to lunch together, lit the candle of hope, and discussed the hope we find in the reality of God With Us. Our conversation rambled, we chased more than a few rabbits, and it was good. We dream of these same lunches for all the Advent Sundays the future holds for us, and of little voices joining in and expressing and discussing their own thoughts and doubts and fears and hopes. We have seen these kinds of simple, intentional pursuits change us and mold us and inspire us, and we can't wait to pass it on, with the hope that it will spread. 

Because that's pretty much what it all boils down to for us: rich simplicity, intentional community, and deep, unwavering hope.

And isn't that kind of what advent is all about? 

I'd love to hear how you and your people stay centered during this sacred season!