3 Ways to an Intentional Advent

Advent season is my favorite.I am usually in a daze of wonder for the whole of December. Star stricken by the Divine humanity. It is a well from which to draw all year long.The clearest memories I have of Christmas as a child are threefold.

I remember reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning, my dad’s deep voice rooting the words right down in my bones. We always cut down a live tree, even in the lean years, at Colonel Purcell’s Christmas tree, jousting with the tree measuring poles, sucking down hot chocolate, and trying to send each other through the tree baler while we sweet talked candy from the Colonel. And of course, I remember making aprons for my sisters one memorable year.

Want to know what I don’t remember? If my mother sent out Christmas cards. Basically any present ever besides the aprons. How many school parties/church parties we attended. My most magical memories are the gossamer moments we spent tied together as a family. Squabbling, fighting, making, listening, living. 

Mamas, those are the memories I would encourage you to make this holiday season. To set aside expectations that are unrealistic, unrealized, and frankly, unimportant.

Three ways to have an intentional advent season.

One: Make a list. Check it twice. Then cross out a bunch of things that don’t really matter. In all seriousness, make a list of three categories. Things you must do, things that would be nice to do, and things that can stay or go. Now look at that list and decide what can go. Playdates can go. Shopping trips can go. Holiday parties can go. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Don’t be afraid to change up priorities to accomplish the must. It would be nice to make treats for all the neighbors and sing carols every day and do all the other Pinterest perfect ideas of what Christmas should be. But this year my only must was to weave the biblical story of Christmas throughout every day of December.

I had two lovely visions of how that would look morning and night. 8.7 seconds into the first advent reading and I chucked one of the two. My darling children are still hearing the advent story and I am still sane.

Make your list, check it twice, and don’t be afraid to cut dead weight.

Two: Don’t be married to tradition. Alternatively, be nontraditional about keeping a tradition. Prayerfully consider what is at the heart of your traditions and determine if it’s worth your time and effort, and if yes, how can you keep the spirit of tradition, and still keep your sanity intact and your stress level low (ish). I only send Christmas cards to the senior generation in our extended family, less married to technology, convenience, and digital photos. (And siblings, because that’s just fun). If I wanted to send them to everyone we loved, I’d be spending hundreds of dollars and hours upon hours that I just don’t have. Our compromise is to know the people who cherish them most, set a cap, and then write a Christmas blog post for everyone else.

Three: Smash your idols. I can’t say this enough. It’s also the hardest thing to do amidst all the tinsel and the glitter. Comparison is the thief of joy, and oh we’ve got a million ways and a million mirrors and they all say you aren’t ___ enough. Rich enough. Crafty enough. Spiritual enough. Parenting enough. And you know what. They’re right. I’m not enough. You know what is though?


And when I break down 11.4 seconds into the first advent reading (approximately 3 seconds after I realized it wasn’t going to look exactly how I planned), there is a multitude of grace to cover my not-enoughness. And maybe that’s the best way to celebrate his birth, all broken up and crying out for grace, knowing how very lost we are without it.

Advent won’t look the way you planned. But don’t let it steal your joy. Because, this, my friends, is a season of joy, the greatest joy, the birth of a newborn King. Good news that will be for all the people.

I’ll leave you with this.

Truth be told, I haven’t always celebrated it well. There have been seasons of fear, of worry, of crumpled up advent calendars in a careless pile on the couch. Multiple Christmases a half a world apart. I’m still in the trenches of motherhood, and most often I’m neck deep in the mud.

But mamas – while we piece together this Christ-following at Christmas, however it may look, I will settle down again deep in the leather chair with chubby toddler arms around my neck. I’ll pull in tight the longwinded four year old with a penchant for storytelling, a six year old that has no business growing any bigger, and my witty, fearless pre-teen. I will weave the wisps of memories to cherish decades down the road when the lights are out, the photos are faded and the presents are long forgotten.

Because we are on a journey to Bethlehem. And it doesn’t matter how you get there. I promise. 


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