In this podcast I had the privilege of talking with my daughter Laura about memories of Christmases in our home when she was growing up. We also talked about our failed attempts at Advent and a new way to celebrate advent today. We had a great time and I think you will enjoy this happy conversation.
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A Call to Advent
Guests: Dennis and Barbara Rainey
From the series: Celebrating Advent (Day 1 of 5)
Air date: November 28, 2016
Bob: Does your church or does your family do anything to celebrate the Advent season? Are you even familiar with what Advent is? Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: The term, “advent,” just means Jesus’ coming—it means the time when He came to earth / He left heaven. The Book of John tells us He was sent by God—He left heaven, and He came to earth. He became a baby, as we all know in the story, and was born and lived and gave His life for us. But the time—those weeks leading up to Christmas—years ago, in the Middle Ages or somewhere in there, the church fathers met and decided that this would be a good time to help people prepare their hearts to celebrate and to worship when Christmas Day actually came.
I think it’s a great concept because, in our culture today, we don’t wait very well, we do not celebrate very well, and we don’t mark the days very well.
I think there is some benefit—especially for families—to mark those Sundays of Advent with, even, a ten-minute gathering. Get together before bed time, if you have to—or after breakfast or whenever it works—and just think together about what this season is all about. The whole idea of Advent is preparing your heart to worship and to appropriately celebrate the gift of Christ.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I’m Bob Lepine. We have a great opportunity, over the next four weeks, to prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of Jesus’ coming. We’ll talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I just—I’m wondering: “Do you guys have, at your house, somebody who comes through—like at the end of the weekend after Thanksgiving—and says: ‘Okay; we’ve got to do a major shift here! We’ve got to take all the Thanksgiving stuff down’?”
Dennis: You’re looking at him. [Laughter] My martyr meter is going off right now. [Laughter]
Barbara: There’s not that much Thanksgiving stuff to take down; mind you.
Dennis: There really isn’t; but I’m going to tell you—the Christmas—we have it out in a little storage shed. I’m not saying it’s a lot, but we hire an 18-wheeler to move the 200 feet from our storage shed up to our back door. [Laughter]
Bob: You had to put an addition on the storage shed—didn’t you?—just to handle more Christmas stuff over the years? [Laughter]
Barbara: You guys are terrible!
Dennis: We are terrible.
Barbara: You are, because it’s so not true.
Bob: But the truth is that—
Dennis: Barbara—you know, here is the thing, Bob—this is a paradox of life.
Dennis: Barbara says her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
Bob: And by the way, Barbara is joining us again today. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: Welcome back, Sweetheart.
Barbara: Thank you.
Bob: So, Thanksgiving, which we’ve just completed—your favorite holiday; right?
Barbara: Yes; and the rest of the sentence is?
Dennis: Why are there boxes of Christmas gear that we bring in?
Barbara: Because there is so much more available to purchase, and to display, and to decorate with for Christmas than there is for Thanksgiving.
Dennis: Especially since you created Ever Thine Home®.
Barbara: That’s part of it too.
Dennis: You have declared the reason for the season, both at Thanksgiving and at Christmas—
Barbara: So, part of—
Dennis: —and at Valentine’s, and at Easter.
Barbara: —and Easter. Part of the reason—
Dennis: —and the Fourth of July! [Laughter]
Barbara: Part of the reason we have more at Christmas now is because we have all the old stuff—all the old Santa, snowmen / things have nothing to do with Jesus—stuff that I haven’t gotten rid of yet.
Dennis: You know what I think?—[whispering]—they could disappear.
Barbara: They could.
Dennis: [Whispering] They might—they might vanish.
Barbara: But we’ve replaced them with all the new things about Jesus.
Bob: If you see an extra trash can out at the curb tonight when you go home—[Laughter]
Barbara: I’ll know what it is; yes! [Laughter]
Bob: —you will know—
Dennis: It may be my body! [Laughter]
Bob: —you will know that your husband has decided to edit some of your Christmas decorations.
Dennis: This could be the end of me! [Laughter] No; we have a good time with it—I really enjoy the season. We do pull it out, and there is a transition. There’s not that much gear that comes down from Thanksgiving / there is a good amount that comes up to celebrate Christmas.
Bob: Well, I’ve been to your home at Christmastime. I just love—there is a red vinyl record that you’ve had up—
Barbara: You like my old records?
Bob: I love the old records.
Barbara: I do too.
Bob: You knew that would be something that I would gravitate toward.
Bob: But what is it? I don’t know if it’s Joy to the World. What is it? Do you remember?
Barbara: Well, it may be Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; but I have three of these old records left from my childhood. We had stacks of them that my brother and I used to play on our little record player. For some reason, I ended up with these three—
—two are red and one is a 78 [RPM]—which nobody knows what that is anymore except you [Bob]. One is a 78, and it’s yellow. I put those up on little plate stands every year at Christmas. They are just some of my favorite things that I put out every year at Christmas.
Bob: Okay; well, I have to be honest with you—since we have become empty-nesters at our house, we’ve had the conversation of “Can we just kind of scale back the home decorating?”
Barbara: Oh, yes.
Bob: It was one thing when the kids were home—
Bob: —and you really wanted to create an atmosphere.
Dennis: Have your kids let you have it for doing that?
Bob: Well, I mean, they only show up for a few days; and you can endure that. [Laughter] I’m just curious: “Have you thought about scaling back since it’s just the two of you now?”
Barbara: Yes; we have scaled back. In fact, when we did some remodeling on our house a few years ago, I didn’t even put up a full-sized tree / it wasn’t even a fresh tree—I had a smaller tree that was a table-top tree. When I got that and I set it up, I heard in my head the words that I said to myself when I was a young wife:
“I will never do a table-top tree like all these old people that I know.” [Laughter] All of a sudden, I thought: “Oh my gosh! I’m one of those. [Laughter] What has happened to me?”
Dennis: You’re not an old person; trust me.
Bob: But you have scaled back?
Barbara: We have scaled back; yes.
Bob: Because Dennis makes it sound like it’s just getting bigger and bigger every year.
Barbara: It is not getting bigger and bigger every year. So, sorry, dear; I disagree.
Dennis: There you have it—another great illustration ruined by an eye-witness.
Bob: Here’s what has happened at your home—and we talked about this earlier. Some the old decorations that were festive have been replaced by decorations that are more purposeful.
Barbara: Correct; yes.
Bob: And this is something that I know—over the last five years / maybe longer than that—has become a real burden for you.
Barbara: Well, I’ve wanted to find Christmas decorations—whether it was ornaments or other kinds of things that I could put out at Christmas—
—for 20 years, I’ve been looking for things that were about Christ, other than a Nativity set, which we had a couple of, and we put those up every year. Other than a Nativity set of some kind, it was very hard to find anything to hang on a Christmas tree that was about Jesus.
Now, that I’ve started creating these Christmas ornaments that are about Jesus, called Adorenaments®, that’s what my tree is covered with now. I don’t put up all the other ones that we used to put up when the kids were at home. We don’t have Santas, and reindeer, and snowmen, and footballs, and all of that stuff on our tree anymore—partly because the kids are gone.
If the kids were still home and little, and they wanted to hang those ornaments, we would hang them; but I would also put up ornaments about Christ, because Christmas is about Jesus. I want anyone who comes in our home—and those of us who live in our home—to be reminded every day, during the month of December, that what we are celebrating is about Jesus Christ—it’s about His birth / it’s about His incarnation.
It’s not about all this extra stuff, and I want that to be preeminent in our home.
Bob: Some of our listeners will know that we are in a season—that, on the church calendar, is an official season. In fact, some listeners, this week at church, will have lit a candle as part of the worship service around an Advent wreath.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: They are marking out Advent as a season. I know other listeners are going, “I thought Advent was something that the church down the street did, and we don’t do it,”—it’s a foreign term for them.
This is something that you’ve kind of dug into and said: “What’s the history of Advent?” and “Why has the church marked out this season in advance of Christmas?” What have you found?
Barbara: Well, the term, “advent,” just means Jesus’ coming—it means the time when He came to earth / He left heaven. The Book of John tells us He was sent by God—He left heaven, and He came to earth. He became a baby, as we all know in the story, and was born and, then, lived and gave His life for us.
But the time—those weeks leading up to Christmas—years ago, in the Middle Ages or somewhere in there, the church fathers met and decided that this would be a good time to help people prepare their hearts to celebrate and to worship when Christmas Day actually came.
I think it’s a great concept because, in our culture today, we don’t wait very well, we do not celebrate very well, and we don’t mark the days very well. I think there is some benefit—especially for families—to mark those Sundays of Advent with, even, a ten- minute gathering. Get together before bed time, if you have to—or after breakfast or whenever it works—and just think together about what this season is all about. We’ve got some ways that we want to tell you about that we think that you could do that, but the whole idea of Advent is preparing your heart to worship and to appropriately celebrate the gift of Christ.
Dennis: Advent can be celebrated on each Sunday, leading up to Christmas, as it is this year. It’s already started—people begin to celebrate Advent, thinking about the coming of Christ.
It’s also celebrated on a daily basis, leading up to Christmas Eve—and, then, Christmas morning—where the arrival of the Christ-child and the celebration of Him coming and physically visiting the planet can be talked about, as a family, and what that meant for us, as individuals; us, as a family; and also our world.
Bob: We’re encouraging listeners to be intentional and purposeful during the Christmas season this year. We’ve got some suggestions we’ve been sending out to folks and will be sending out during the Advent season. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out how you can get these emails or these text messages sent to you during the season so that your family can be more purposeful, more focused, more intentional during this season of the year.
I remember—when I was growing up, we had an Advent calendar—
—different one every year—that we would get out. Each day on the calendar was covered up with something. As a child, I either got to tear off the piece of cardboard to show what was behind the date or I got to flip something over and see what was revealed—always something hidden that is revealed each day. That’s part of what we are remembering during the Advent season—is that there is expectation—there is something hidden that is about to be revealed. Each day of Advent, we’re expectant / we’re anticipating.
There was one calendar that we got one year, where there was a piece of chocolate behind every day. That got attention paid to it. Trust me! Every day at breakfast—
Dennis: You’ve never forgotten it.
Bob: That’s right. [Laughter]
Barbara: It was your favorite; right?
Bob: Yes; of course!
Dennis: And we had one, when we were raising little children, that was kind of a—
Barbara: It was felt.
Dennis: —it was felt. You pulled out an ornament—a candy cane / a Santa Claus—again, it was not centered on Christ as you would think it would be as an Advent calendar.
I’m just listening to Barbara talk about this, Bob—over 25 years ago, she began to look around and to search for ways that were about Christ in helping us celebrate His advent/His coming to the plant—but also, things that were beautiful, that were elegant, that weren’t just plastic but were heirlooms that could be passed on to future generations.
Bob: You started with the Christmas tree, and this is your fifth year to make ornaments for trees?
Barbara: That’s correct.
Bob: Back, five years ago, you came up with a set of seven ornaments that were all around the Christmas names of Jesus.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: The next year, you did His royal names—
Bob: —in the shape of crowns. The year after that, you did His Savior names that were all in crosses—
Dennis: —different crosses from different eras in church history.
Bob: Last year, you took the name of Jesus and you had it in different languages with the different alphabets from those languages.
Bob: This year, you’ve got a new set of ornaments?
Barbara: We do. We have a new set. We’ve titled these “His Advent Names,” appropriately, because these ornaments—there are four of them this year—they are all round, and they’re all globes. You see the continents of the world on these globes; and then, each one has a name of Christ. Then, on the other side of the globe, it has the verse where that name is found in the Bible. The focus of this set of ornaments is that He came to earth. We visually created globes to remind us that Jesus came to earth for us; and then, these are some names that are associated with His advent.
Bob: And what are the four names you used this year?
Barbara: The four names are “Jesus is the Light” / He came to be the light of the world—“Jesus is the Son” / “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son…”—“Jesus is the Word” / “For the word became flesh and dwelt among us,” / that’s all about His birth in the manger.
And then, the last one is “The Messenger”; and it’s about Jesus coming to bring good news and to tell us who God is.
Dennis: Everybody who has seen these—and seen the others that Barbara created—say these are their favorites / that the globes that feature the names of Christ really are spectacular and also, again, call attention to the reason why He came to the planet.
I just think it’s important, Bob, as we hang these ornaments on our trees, to bring our children / our grandchildren into the experience and talk about—not just hang the globe or hang the name on the tree, but to talk about: “What does that mean?” You could literally take all 25 of these ornaments that Barbara has created over all—His Christmas names, His Royal names, His Savior names, and now, His Advent names—you could turn your Christmas tree—over the next, well, almost 24/25 days—into an Advent Christmas tree. One day after another, hang one of these on your tree and talk about the name of Christ—
—and introduce your children or, as a couple, talk about, “How is Jesus the Light of the World?”
Bob: And radio really doesn’t do justice to these. Again, I’ll encourage listeners to go to FamliyLifeToday.com, where they can see what you’ve created. If folks are interested in ordering, they can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
This is not something you guys have done throughout your marriage. In fact, Advent—you kind of didn’t pay attention to Advent until your kids were grown; right?
Barbara: Well, I paid attention to it when we were raising our kids, but I didn’t know what to do with it; because I was too busy—and school parties—you know, there were just too many things going on during the month of December. I think every mom, listening, would say the same thing. It’s a very, very busy season—we want to do all those things with our kids, and we want to do gifts for all these people, and we wear ourselves out.
So, even though I wanted to do Advent, I didn’t know of an easy way to do it. The times that I tried it, we only did one Sunday; and then, we never finished. I felt like a failure, and I didn’t like feeling like a failure. I just thought: “Well, forget that. We won’t do Advent in our house, because it’s just too hard to pull it off.”
But I do think that Advent is worth practicing, even if you only do it once. That’s what I didn’t understand when I was a mom—that doing something—even just doing one time—is better than nothing. I think that’s my encouragement to moms and to women is: “Even if you just do one Sunday / even if you do one something, it’s better than nothing.” I think that makes it valuable, because you’re being intentional. You’re creating some moments of meaning with your family if you try to make a pause in your life—take a timeout from your busyness—to reflect on who Christ is and what He came to do.
Dennis: I think the significance of this is way underestimated.
You know, over in Philippians 2, it talks about—someday, at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father. I think we underestimate that these names—and interestingly, how many names in your study did you find in the Scriptures were the names of Christ?
Barbara: Some scholars say over 300. I don’t know—I’ve not counted them—but there are a lot more names than any of us have.
Dennis: Well, these 25 names that she’s illustrating with these Adorenaments—these are powerful names that give parents practical ways to teach your children about who God is—talking about how Jesus is the Light of the World / how He is the Word—and how they need the Word today; how they need to have a guide / how they need to have a direction for their lives. If they don’t, they’re going to be obedient to the world and going to conform to the world. So, because Christ came, He showed us what a straight line really is.
Bob: And some listeners, I know, are thinking, “I’ve heard about Advent, but our church doesn’t do that.”
They feel like, maybe, there is something just strange about it; because it’s unfamiliar. What would you say to them?
Barbara: Well, I would say familiarity doesn’t always mean that is right. I think that just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s something that you shouldn’t do. There is value in taking some time, as a family—or even just as a husband and wife if you don’t have kids yet—to talk about the names of Christ, and to talk about who He is, and why He came. That’s what Advent is all about—it’s preparing your heart.
I think anytime we can pause and prepare our heart to welcome Him / to give Him worship, we’re going to be better for it. It may be a little different than something you’ve heard of, but just think of what the word [Advent] means—it just means preparing for His coming.
Bob: Explain for listeners what the benefits are of taking time out to focus on Jesus during the Advent season.
Barbara: The whole purpose for Advent—the reason that the church fathers came up with this idea, back in the Middle Ages, was to encourage people, who were believers in Christ, to prepare their hearts for Christmas Day. It’s a way to anticipate His coming / it’s a way to look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. When we practice Advent today, it’s essentially the same thing—it’s a way to mark the time, but it’s also a way to build anticipation.
I think there are some real benefits for families. The first one is—it teaches us to be patient. We are not a patient people in this culture—our children aren’t patient / we’re not patient—we’re so used to everything being readily available whenever we want it. If you mark Advent—and you can only open one little box, and you have to wait a whole week for the next one—it teaches us, as people, to be patient. That is a good quality / it’s a good attribute.
Another benefit, I think, for celebrating or marking the days of Advent is that it helps us to pause and reflect about who Christ is. Another is that it builds anticipation—when we’re anticipating, we are believing. I think that’s really, really good for us.
Reason number four is that Advent encourages eternal decisions; because I think, when we take the time to think about Jesus and why He came to earth, it naturally makes us go, “Oh; do I know Him?” As moms and dads, it’s a great opportunity for you to say to your kids, “Do you know Jesus?” Advent is a way for us to pause in the middle of the busy season and take advantage of Advent—it helps us have those conversations. It may lead to the most important decision you or one of your kids will ever make.
Bob: Well, and I know, at our house—especially when our kids were younger—there was a lot of anticipation and expectation during the Christmas season / during the Advent season—
—but it was expectation and anticipation around, “What am I getting on Christmas morning?”
Dennis: Yes; of course.
Bob: Not a whole lot of expectation or anticipation around celebrating the birth of Jesus—
Bob: —or having a Christ-centered focus. That’s where you are trying to redirect—
Bob: —our attention with the resources you’re creating and all that you’ve been working on.
I’d encourage listeners to go to our website to see the new set of Adorenaments—the globes that you’ve created this year / His Advent names. There are four of them; and you can see them at FamilyLifeToday.com, along with some of the ornaments from past years as well.
If you’ve got the FamilyLife app on your iPhone or on your Android phone, we’re building into the app this year some devotionals you can do together, as a family—ways to talk about Christ during the Christmas season—some questions that you can ask one another at the dinner table just to get conversation going around more spiritual themes.
If you don’t have the FamilyLife app, you can download it from your app store and look for the Christmas content that is included in the app this year.
Once again, if you’d like to see the resources Barbara has been working on over the last year, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the new Adorenaments from us there; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Today is a special day for Glen and Shawn Solberg—who live here in Little Rock and, until recently, were coworkers of ours, here at FamilyLife—they are celebrating 24 years together as husband and wife: “Happy anniversary!” to the Solbergs.
We’ve been all about anniversaries this year because it’s really tied to the mission of this ministry.
We want to see more couples celebrate more anniversaries, year in and year out. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families, who change the world, one home at a time.
When you support the work of FamilyLife, it is couples—like the Solbergs—you’re supporting. Together, we are providing practical biblical help and hope for husbands and wives, moms and dads, all around the world. We’re grateful for those of you who partner with us in this ministry. In fact, tomorrow is Giving Tuesday—it’s a time when, in advance of Christmas, a lot of people decide to make yearend contributions to ministries and other non-profit organizations.
Maybe today, you could talk about making a donation—a yearend donation—to FamilyLife. Tomorrow, on Giving Tuesday, you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, donate over the phone; or write to us with your donation.
Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about how, as a family, we can help ourselves and help our children be more focused on what Christmas really is all about. Hope you can tune in. Barbara Rainey is going to be back with us, and I hope you will be as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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