It feels like a lifetime ago, but I used to write Christmas services and dramas for our church. From September through December I was in Christmas mode – studying, preparing, writing, and eventually directing Christmas presentations. Christmas was an experience – physical and spiritual – and every year it was special in the most precious way.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Advent, when we slow down, take a deep breath, and wait with expectancy for the coming of our Savior.
Can we be honest that sometimes Advent doesn’t feel like the joyful waiting it was designed to be? Sometimes it feels frazzled, stressful, with extra plans, extra presents, extra people and stuff. And it can be exhausting.
Remember how when Jesus was born, that God chose Shepherds, just doing their thing, out in the quiet. He came to them first with His big announcement – and He comes to us in the quiet too.
Maybe, you like me, have little people at home and jobs and chickens and household stuff and you don’t feel like it’ll ever be quiet. Not till everyone moves out. See ya in 20 years, bud.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t quiet our pace, quiet our hearts, minds, and souls, and tuck in to what God has to show us this season. Waiting expectantly for Him to do exactly what He said He’d do – send a Savior to redeem us.
When it comes to quieting my heart, I need something to hold in my hands, to feel, to hold when the world starts to spin. Like a cup of coffee and a good book.
And when it comes to a good book for Advent, this is one of my favorites.
Experience Christmas is an Advent devotional written by my dear friend Christine from ChristineTrevino.com.
I love her take on preparing for Christmas. She spent years working churches, writing and directing Christmas pageants. The heart of the prep work of not only costumes, sets, lines, and songs – but the soul work of it all.
Since I did a review of her great devotional last Christmas, I thought I’d do a little interview with her this year.
[And if you’re ready to get a hold of this devotional for yourself, you can get the Kindle version FREE from November 28 – December 2. Get it here! Or, if like me, you want to hold something in your hands, you can get the print version on CreateSpace for $4 off with code 8FA8ERZ5 . I’ll also be hosting a giveaway on Instagram!]
What do you love about Advent?
I didn’t grow up observing the tradition of Advent, which may be why it completely changed my perspective of Christmas as an adult. Advent has become somewhat of a pause button for my entire year. All the things that often cloud my perspective and hold hostage my time are set aside so that I can fully embrace the season. Christmas is such a big deal, and Advent is what gives me space to fully experience it – not the commercial, sugary-coated, holiday-madness side, but the real, meaningful, miracle-in-the-manger side.
What are some of your favorite ways to prepare for Christmas?
Preparing for Christmas is an elaborate undertaking for our family. We have a lot of special, quirky family Christmas traditions – so that part is huge for us. There is a decorating-the-house ritual, a Christmas-special-on-televisio
n ritual, a crafting-homemade-gifts ritual. I love it all. My husband and I try to take a special Christmas date every year, and we also try to do something unique with the boys. Lots of family, lots of fun, lots of memory making. And also lots and lots of Christmas music. That’s all we play from mid-November until December 26. Seriously. Ok I might start it earlier. 🙂
On the spiritual side of things we do a family Advent devotional together (Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is a favorite) and I try to do one personally as well. Taking out the Nativity set every year has become a sacred moment for our family, and when we get close to the actual day, we make sure to include Christmas services (sometimes several outside normal church services) in with our family celebrations.
Why do you think an advent devotional is important?
It essentially says that the moments you spend with the Lord are going to be different, more focused, more aimed at preparing your heart for Christmas than the status quo. Everyone knows the Christmas story, but taking time and opening yourself up to a fresh perspective breathes new life into this most sacred story. I think it’s key to really experiencing Christmas well.
There are almost too many! I have very tender memories of time spent with my Dad’s parents on Christmas Eve when I was a child. Baking Christmas cookies with my Momma. Every Christmas date I’ve had with my husband (this year will be number fourteen!). Christmas services I have attended that have left me wrecked with God’s grace, and Christmas services I’ve planned I hope have had even a fraction of that impact. Christmas is my favorite for so many reasons.
How does that come out in the book?
Several years later as a stay at home mom, Christmas would sneak up in a way that left everything feeling so empty. For a while, I wondered if I was just missing my old job. What I realized over time was that I was missing the days of preparation, studying Scripture, and experiencing the season slowly in ways that were truly meaningful to me.
When I finally understood where the disconnect was – that I needed the discipline of preparation, of reading and listening, writing and responding to the story of Christmas – I realized I needed to do something to recapture what was lost. So I wrote Experience Christmas. It changed something in me and helped me establish a new way of meeting Jesus in preparation for Christmas in the middle of my mothering. I’m so grateful.
How will Experience Christmas help us center our hearts and thoughts this season?
I wrote Experience Christmas because year after year I was getting all of the holiday things done, but hadn’t spent time with Jesus the way I knew I needed to, and Christmas felt so hollow without it. The demands of life at Christmas are real, and I needed something guide my heart through the month-long journey of Advent, rather than put in my time for a 30 minute service before presents. I needed to be aware, and alive, and present, and this book helped me do that all month long.
I wrote each devotional to engage the heart through Scripture, song, reflection and prayer. For me, devotions that I hope are though-provoking and inspiring, coupled with time spent listening to some of the most beautiful songs of the season, and then asking God to speak, is like having a mini-Christmas service every day in my own home. There are also fictionalized vignettes sprinkled throughout the book that aim to capture what the characters of the Biblical story might have been thinking or feeling as they experienced the Nativity in real time. I really strove to create an experience that lifted itself off the page to engage a reader differently through this devotional.
What’s your best advice for someone who feels rushed this Christmas season?
Stop. Right now. And take the reigns of the season back in your own hands. Time is so short, but it is so precious. Be realistic about what you can accomplish this season – events, commitments, resources, etc – and decide what is most important to you and your family then say “no” to everything else.
You answer to no one but the Lord. You may disappoint someone with your “no,” but think of the “yes” it gives way to – a fully engaged, life-giving Christmas season. I can’t think of a better way to spend December!