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Spiritual Practices During Advent



See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years (Mal 3:1-4).

As the holiday season heats up, many of us long for an extra pair of hands for help with the work that comes with the holiday! If not help with the actual work, how about some help prioritizing what matters? What must be done, and what can be allowed to slip away? Someone with a refiner’s fire that can purify our offerings and make the activities sparkle with renewed purpose.

I led an Advent Bible study for women in a church a few years ago where about half of the group expressed dread and exhaustion over the thought of decorating for the holidays. There were a number who openly wept in anticipation of the pressure and work ahead of them. Our discussion evolved into figuring out what they could omit from their holiday decorating that would relieve pressure and what they could expand upon that would give them the most pleasure and be life-giving. Each person talked about a Christmas decoration that meant the most—that one piece that if it were not out just wouldn’t feel like Christmas.

One woman whose grandparents came to the U.S. from Germany spoke of antique, brass clips that they used on their tree that held real candles with flames. For her, Christmas would not be Christmas without a tree lit with real candles. Someone else talked about her collection of nativity sets from all around the world, made of all different materials.

For me, I remember a ceramic lightbox that my mother painted. There was a scene of a village in winter with a horse and sleigh. I pulled this box out of my decorations for Christmas 2020, a couple of months after my mother died. I placed it on my bedside table so I could enjoy it throughout the season. When it came time to put the decorations away, I kept that one out. It has sat on my bedside table all year.

Throughout Advent, scripture passages from the prophets talk about making the path home an easy one.[1] While going home may not be possible, we can still connect to our memories of home. Connecting with the past and cherishing those memories can help spark interest in renewing relationships and making new memories. Our project this week employs narrative storytelling to generate memories, using a familiar object to spark the narrative.

Christmas Decoration Project - Pull out your Christmas decorations and decorate your tree and your home. Choose one to three decorations and record yourself as you tell their story… Who made them? Where did they come from? Why are they special?

Weekly discussion questions:

  • 1) Is decorating for Christmas something you anticipate with joy, or is it something you dread? Do you see it as an obligation of labor or a labor of love?

  • 2) Why did you choose the decorations you are presenting? What memories do they evoke for you?

  • 3) As you think of the story behind these special decorations, how does it alter your feelings about decorating your home?

  • 4) How has this project affected you? Your relationship with someone else? Your relationship with God? [2]


[1] David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, ed. Feasting on the Word. Year C, volume 1, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009), 29.

[2] Distribute a playlist, CDs, or recordings of the favorite Christmas hits—carols and songs that you gathered from the first week so the group can participate in next week’s project.

Spiritual practice shared from Discipleship Ministries.