This is a guest post from Blake Price.  Blake is the Associate Pastor at Christ Covenant Church. He and his wife, Erika, live in Baton Rouge, LA with their four children: Hannah, David, Leah, and Ruth. Contact Blake on Twitter or on Google +

Two of our four children have been born at the most wonderful time of the year…Christmas week! In order to prepare for the arrival of both David (2006) and Leah (2008) in the midst of the holiday season we knew one thing for sure: November was critical. Our Christmas preparation couldn’t wait. If it didn’t get done in November, it wasn’t going to get done. November was key. November was critical. The baby was coming!

November is critical for you too. If you are hoping to make the most out of the Christmas, November is the key.

Your Advent Needs an Advent

Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, often in the last weekend of November. (This year it starts November 27th.) The word “Advent” simply means “arrival”. In her book, “Treasuring Christ in our Traditions”, Noel Piper writes, “Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been, waiting for the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, Advent is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming.”

The season of Advent is intended to marinate us in the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah so that when Christmas day arrives our joy is bursting with the flavor of what has finally come. In that sense, Advent is a mini-reenactment of the centuries of longing and waiting that God’s people endured when he would finally send the Rescuer. And in the midst of that celebration for God’s people is an absolute treasure trove of opportunities to make memories, to begin God-honoring traditions, and to allow Christ to capture our attention as we mark his birth.

But, the clock is ticking if you want to avoid looking back on all the festivities and the wrapping paper burning in the fire place, scratching your head and saying, “Where was Christ in this celebration?” Celebrating Advent helps us make much of Christ at Christmas. But to make the most of advent you have to get prepared. Your “Advent” needs an advent.

This week you can (and must) start to gather some ideas and make plans to get you and your family thinking about how you want to celebrate this season. Just start with one or two traditions this year. Work them into your daily/weekly routine. Add a little bit next year. Below are some starter ideas to get you going.

What Will You Sing?

This year, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man will be played at our regular time around the dinner table beginning on November 27th. These are not Christmas Carols, per se. They are songs centered on the anticipated incarnation of Jesus, the Messiah. What will you sing? Decide this week.

What Will You Read?

A large part of our Advent celebration with small children centers on nightly reading that starts to draw us towards Christmas. Last year we used Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent to guide us, and we will use the next book from the series this year. Will you read as a family to let “every heart prepare him room?” Decide this week. A little reading each night can be a great way to start to talk about the anticipation for the coming of Messiah that should mark our hopes at this time of year.

How Will You Celebrate?

Treasuring God in Our Traditions has some great sections and ideas for Advent including: Preparing a special Sunday Night Meal each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Lighting candles on an Advent Wreath while reading part of the nativity story from the gospels; Preparing a Jesse Tree; Being INTENTIONAL with setting up a manger scene. Again, you don’t have to do it all. The key is to start somewhere.

Check out the Samaritan’s Purse giving catalog to think of ways that your family can collect money and cultivate a GIVING spirit. Take advantage of opportunities to help your kids earn money, collect their change, and imitate God’s generosity as part of your celebration of how “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…”

Advent is intended to heighten your Christmas Celebration which is the BEGINNING of the celebration (not the end) on December 25th. As you make memories, cut down a tree, decorate the house, and attend festivities, mark your home and your life with celebration of the anticipation, preparing your heart and your family each day for what you will celebrate on Christmas Morning. Your joy, real joy, will be heightened.

There are literally dozens of ideas and ways to prepare your heart, soul, mind, and strength for this occasion. But, it won’t happen without intention. Get out a calendar starting THIS week and get ready. Our Advent preparation can’t wait. If it doesn’t get done in November, it won’t get done. November is key. November is critical.

The baby is coming! And it’s the High King of Heaven who has made his dwelling among us. Make sure to make much of Him by preparing well for his celebration of and reflection upon his arrival.

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