It was almost 18 years ago when I bought an engagement ring for Leslie from Ware Jewelers in downtown Auburn. I was working in Birmingham, AL at the time and ended up having to wait for almost a month before executing my "big plan" of asking her to marry me. For the first few days I hid the ring in the back of my sock drawer. I remember how several times a day I would go to pull it out of the drawer and just gaze at it. But the obsession went beyond that. I would often take out all of the paperwork that came along with it and study all of the details of the diamond, even becoming a bit of an expert on its "4 C's". I had worked and saved for a long time for this ring and was so proud of my purchase for Leslie. After a few days I decided my sock drawer wasn't good enough. I ended up taking the ring to my bank and buying a safe deposit box. But even that couldn't stop me from gazing at the ring. Several times over those next weeks I would use my lunch break to rush over to the bank, open the box and just sit there staring at the ring for a few minutes before rushing back to work (young men who are in love, this craziness is coming for you!)
I think it was this kind of attentive gazing that the angel of God was inviting the frightened shepherds in on when he said to them, "Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!" I bet this angel was just busting at the seams that night to share this amazing news - news that had the power to redeem absolutely anyone and anything in the world! And all he wanted to do was help these humble shepherds to realize it and become captured by it...to simply behold.
It is this same practice of beholding that we are invited to this Advent. So for these next Sundays we will be worshiping by way of beholding the waiting and longing of God's people for a savior, the beautiful events leading up to his arrival, and the impact his coming has in our lives now. But our hope is to not to just let this work of beholding happen in our worship gatherings. So we're inviting you to take this practice of beholding into your own home with a simple family devotional each evening through the season of Advent. To help with this we've developed a simple framework to help you get started.
- Light a candle. Round up the family and light a candle, but one that you will only use for this special time.
- Read a brief Scripture passage. Just click on the "Advent Devotional Guide" below to download a simple reading plan that will intentionally walk you through the scriptures of Advent. We've also provided a version that goes along with the Jesus Storybook Bible if that is more fitting for your family's stage.
- Worship. Create a playlist of your favorite Christmas songs then listen to or sing along with one each evening. (Have fun with it. Don't take yourself too seriously. Belt it out!)
- Pray. Offer a simple prayer of thanks for the gift of Jesus and the blessings of the day.
Now I know that some of you by now are thinking this is a bit of a stretch. It's way out of the ordinary for you. It could even get a bit awkward! But just go for it. Show up each evening and see what happens. Be consistent. But if you miss a night or things get crazy, no sweat. Just jump back on the current day and keep on with it. You might be surprised at how you discover God in this simple act.
So back to the ring. It's been on Leslie's finger now for over 17 years and I hardly even see it anymore. It's with us everywhere and has become kind of a normal object of our ordinary life. Maybe for some of us, this story of Jesus breaking into the world has become a bit like that also. It's just an ordinary fixture in the cycle of our year. But maybe God is wanting something different for you this season. Maybe he is wanting to capture your heart in the deepest place and draw you in to see something you have never seen before, or at least not for a while...the beautiful gift of his son, given for you.