Approaching Advent without Dread - Amy Boucher Pye
Ever seen posts on social media by someone who does all of their Christmas shopping before Advent starts? I have, and I when I do I feel not only convicted but lacking, although my friend doesn’t intend to shame me. I love the idea of a consumer-free Advent where I have acres of time to pray as I ponder the gift of God incarnate, but I don’t know that I’ll ever plan that much in advance.
Often, in fact, I approach Advent with a bit of dread over the busyness that this season will entail. But this year I’m embracing grace. Yes, I shouldn’t technically be listening to Christmas carols until the twelve days of Christmas, but because they help me prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth, I allow myself this pleasure. And no, I won’t have all of my Christmas shopping done before Advent starts, but I can plan now and ask God to help me be creative with presents – what’s something I could make instead of buying, for instance?
Carols and shopping aside, the main thing I aspire to this Advent is keeping Jesus fully at the centre. To do so I appreciate engaging in a special programme of reading and reflection during the countdown to Christmas. Might this be something you too could embrace?
Here are two resources to help you keep Jesus the reason for the season.
One of my favourite Advent books. Amy brilliantly explores the metaphors that God uses to describe himself, such as a burning bush, weaver, gardener, shepherd, king, and, of course, a baby. Her book is a masterpiece of metaphor. Through her thought-provoking, deep and winsome writing, she leads us to the God who makes himself known.
Setting aside some time each day to ponder the images of God will shape not only our understanding of God but ourselves. Amy says it best in the introduction:
'Metaphors for God respond to human need: sometimes we may greet him with joy like the morning star; at other times we may hide in him as our stronghold, run to him as our parent, feed on him as our bread. Since God is best described in relationship like this, each metaphor for God also has something to teach us about ourselves, our spiritual needs and how we can find those deep needs met in God. In every metaphor for God, we will find ourselves also pictured: as a baby bird hiding under its mother’s wings, as people who are hungry or thirsty or stranded, or as someone waiting in darkness and longing for light. The better we know God in scripture, the better we see our own spiritual condition as well.'
I’m biased, but I love this book! It’s a joy to share my dad’s art in such a gorgeous package (thank you, friends at BRF). Each of the 25 chapters features a beautiful painting and a short reflection, so if you’re pressed for time, you can stop for a few precious moments as you take in the words and images. Some people like to save the book for the twelve days of Christmas, which works well too.
Here's how popular author and speaker Catherine Campbell describes it:
'Celebrating Christmas is like opening a box of your favourite chocolates. You think you know what you’re going to get only to discover a delightful surprise with each bite. Amy’s collaboration with her father Leo adds a further layer of joy on this short journey of celebrating Immanuel, ‘God with us’. The blending of inspirational thought with touching personal anecdotes and beautiful art is indeed a Christmas gift to treasure.'
May you enjoy Advent as a stress-free time of anticipating the birth of Jesus, God who became one of us. Here’s a prayer from Celebrating Christmas that you can pray along with me:
Christ Jesus, thank you for humbling yourself and coming to live as one of us. We celebrate your birth and your life, for you bring us freedom and hope. Increase our ability to receive from you and from others – open our hearts and our hands to your bounty. And help us to give to you and to others, sharing from the wonders of your love and your life. Amen.
Amy Boucher Pye is an author, speaker, retreat leader, and spiritual director. She’s the author of several books, including 7 Ways to Pray: Time-Tested Practices to Encounter God (NavPress, Form, 2021), Celebrating Christmas (BRF, Credo, 2021), and Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity (Authentic Media, 2015). Amy is married to Nicholas, an English vicar, and lives in a spacious but chilly vicarage in North London with their two teenagers.
Amy blogs at amyboucherpye.com.