#5 - Celebrating Advent with Laura Rainey Dries (Part 2) - Being Still

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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Being Still
Guests:                      Dennis and Barbara Rainey                       
From the series:       Celebrating Advent (Day 2 of 5)
Air date:                     November 29, 2016
Bob: Taking time during the weeks leading up to Christmas to prepare our hearts for the celebration of His coming, that’s what Advent is all about. And Barbara Rainey says, “It helps us cultivate faith.”  

 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. 
One of my favorite writers has written: “That loss of expectation is loss of faith. What else is faith but expectation?”  I love that quote—that when we expect, we believe / when we are anticipating, we believe. 
I think that’s really, really good for us. 
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. But if you mark Advent—and you can only open one lunch sack, for instance, or one little box; and you have to wait a whole week for the next one—it teaches us, as people, to be patient—that’s a good quality / it’s a good attribute. 
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. There are lots of people wanting you to be thinking about lots of different things during these weeks before Christmas. We think it’s good for all of us to be thinking about the celebration of Jesus’ coming. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us. 
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I just need to make sure our listeners understand you prepare for FamilyLife Today very differently than your wife prepares for this program, when she is joining us on FamilyLife Today—as she is today—Barbara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today
Barbara: Thank you, Bob. 
Bob: And here is what I mean by that—
Dennis: Yes; why don’t you tell me what you mean by that?  [Laughter]
Bob: We have been doing this program for 24-plus years now. 
Dennis: Over 5,000 broadcasts. 
Bob: In those 24-plus years, there has never been a day that you’ve come in to the studio with four brown paper bags that have glitter, and glue, and numbers on them. You’ve never come up with a little craft like this for our program. You just come in with some notes, and “Here’s what I want to talk about,” and “Let’s go. C’mon!  C’mon!”  And your wife comes in—this is beautiful / she brought in some bags with glitter and glue on them. 
Dennis: And she’s appealing to something that you and I, both—when we were little boys and, even today, as adults—she’s appealing to our curiosity: “What’s in bag number 1?” and “What’s in number 2?” “—3?” and “—4?”  
I remember where my mom used to stash all the Christmas presents before she would put them under—
Bob: You knew where they were hidden?  

 Dennis: Oh, yes. Are you kidding?  I mean, I was a super-sleuth around the house. 
Bob: Snoop is what you were—not sleuth—snoop. 
Dennis: Oh, well, that’s true too. I would sniff them out. And I admit—one time, I found the closet upstairs—our house was a small, small house. It was kind of dark up there, but there was no one watching. So, I kind of unwrapped—
Bob: —a couple of the presents?  
Dennis: —a couple of the presents. 
Bob: Yes. 
Dennis: And my mom was a better sleuth than me. [Laughter]  But here is the thing—the anticipation of leading up to Christmas is something that every child / every adult enjoys. 
I think what Barbara is doing here, around Advent and Christmas, is appealing to that curiosity and trying to get us to think about, “What’s in bag number 1?”  I think she’s going to let you do it, in a second, after we talk about what Advent is. 
Bob: You brought these in as object lessons for us on today’s program; right?  
Barbara: Well, they are object lessons; but it’s also a way for listeners to hear us do this and go: “Oh, that’s not so hard. I could do that. I could even do that this year.”  Practicing Advent is not that difficult. Here is an easy way that you can practice Advent with your family, even this year. Even though the first Sunday of Advent was last Sunday, there are still four Sundays left. You could still do it this year if you wanted to. 
Bob: There are four lunch sacks here on the table. 

 Barbara: Just plain old, brown lunch sacks—nothing fancy. 
Bob: And with glitter and glue, you’ve got numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on here. 
These are designed to create the curiosity; and, then, we reveal the mystery, at some point. You just thought of this as a way for moms and dads to engage kids and to get them thinking and excited about what this season represents. 
In fact, during the Advent season, we’ve been sending emails and text messages to folks, trying to give them ideas like this that they can use with their families so that the Advent season / the time leading up to Christmas could have more of a spiritual focus / more of a Jesus focus than it currently does. This is just one of those craft ideas—you said, “This is something a mom can do easily with her kids.”  
Barbara: Right. And what it does is—it builds anticipation. As you said earlier, kids are naturally curious. They look forward to Christmas; but they look forward to it for: “What I am going to get.”  Doing Advent and having something fun for Advent builds curiosity, and it directs it toward the real meaning of Christmas. 
Bob: So, do I get to open bag 1?  
Barbara: You may open bag, number 1. 
Bob: Okay; before I open it—
Barbara: Okay. 
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 are so used to everything being readily available whenever we want it. But if you mark Advent— and you can only open one lunch sack, for instance, or one little box and you have to wait a whole week for the next one—
—it teaches us, as people, to be patient—that’s a good quality / it’s a good attribute—so that’s the first one. 
Dennis: Well, before you move on, explain more about Advent. I’m just thinking of how the nation of Israel had to wait—how long after the—
Barbara: Oh, hundreds of years. 
Dennis: —book of God’s last words to the nation of Israel in the Book of Malachi [pronouncing it like an Italian name] [chuckling]?  That’s Malachi [correct pronunciation]. 
Bob: Malachi. 
Dennis: It is Malachi, in case you are wondering—I just want to make sure our listeners are listening. 
God’s last words—listen to this—before there was silence for 400 years. It says in Chapter 4, verse 5: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day the Lord comes,”—there’s Advent—“And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”  
I think God’s always been teaching human beings about being patient. Can you imagine?—you had generations perishing—being patient for the coming of the Messiah. And so, out of what appears to be silence, God speaks—in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2—and here comes Christ. 
Barbara: 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. If you have something like these four sacks that I brought today, and there is a sack that you can open and there is an object in there that you can take out and talk about, it helps us be still for a minute. It helps us reflect. It helps us to talk about Jesus, and why He came, and why it matters to us, as believers. I think being still and having a few minutes to reflect is another benefit to Advent. 
Dennis: And having the object that’s in the sack that you pull out is really important. When I taught a sixth grade Sunday school class for 11 years—I had over 550 kids go through my class—I was constantly using curiosity to keep their attention and to teach them. There is really something that happens when you’ve got a sack that you refuse to open. 
In fact, you remember, Sweetheart—they would just be on the edges of their seats, wondering, “What in the world is Mr. Rainey going to do today?”  
Bob: Do you know what’s in these sacks?  Do you know?  You know; don’t you?  How do you know?  [Laughter]  Did she tell you, or did you sneak and find out?  
Dennis: Let’s just say that the instructor of this broadcast and I have a close relationship. [Laughter]

 Bob: That’s no fair!—[Laughter]—because you know, and I don’t!  [Laughter]  That is not fair. Alright; is it time for number one?  Can I open number one?  
Barbara: No; because I have two more reasons I want to talk to you about Advent. 
Bob: Okay. 
Dennis: Scold him—scold him for being impatient. [Laughter]  
Bob: Okay. So, why else should we be celebrating Advent?  [Laughter]
Barbara: Oh, dear. Well, the third reason is—I think Advent helps us anticipate. I think it builds anticipation. One of my favorite writers has written: “That loss of expectation is loss of faith. What else is faith but expectation?” I love that quote, because I think she is so right—that when we expect, we are believing / when we are anticipating, we believe. I think that’s really, really good for us. 
Dennis: Do you remember Laura on Christmas morning?  
Barbara: Oh, yes!  
Dennis: She hardly slept the night before. 
Barbara: Yes; she’s always been that way, from the time she was little; because she was so excited about Christmas Day. 
Dennis: And then, we made them sit on the steps—

 Barbara: —stairs—  

 Dennis: —of the stairs. 
Barbara: —yes; while you built a fire and we had our coffee. They were so frustrated with us because we made them wait. 
Bob: You are mean parents. 
Barbara: We were mean parents. 
Bob: You are mean parents. 
Barbara: Oh, I know. 
Bob: So, I’m ready for the bag. 
Barbara: Well, okay; but one more. 
Bob: One more. 

 Barbara: One more. 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?  Have you invited Him into your heart?”  
Advent is a way for us to pause in the middle of the busy season—and all of us want meaningful moments during the Christmas holiday—we just don’t know how to do it. If we 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: So, I’m ready. 
Dennis: I have to make one more comment—
Bob: C’mon! Hurry up!  
Dennis: —about what Barbara’s talking about—an eternal decision—because she said something I never thought about before: “What about the eternal decision the inn keeper made to say, ‘There’s no room here for you”?  His inn could have been the birth place of the Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; but he had no room in the inn. 
I’d never thought about that before—our decisions, now, make an impact upon eternity. 
Bob: Alright; so is it time?  
Barbara: Are you ready?  
Bob: I’m ready—I’ve been ready!  [Laughter]  

 Barbara: Yes; you can open sack number one. 
Bob: Sack number one, and I’m reaching in. So, okay / alright; this is the first of the ornaments. This is the one that says, “Jesus the Light”—it’s the globe—“I am the Light of the World,” John 8:12
Barbara: But because you opened it—see, you can hang that on the tree. 
Bob: So, now, I get to hang it on the tree. 
Barbara: You can be the one to hang it on the tree. 
Bob: There is also—there is a crown at the top here; alright?  Do all of them have crowns at the top?  
Barbara: They all have crowns on them. 

 Bob: Okay. 
Barbara: And then, what we do—if we were doing this in our home, is—I would get the little book or Dennis would get the little book—and we would read the story about Jesus being the Light of the World and why He’s the—
Bob: The little book that comes with this?  
Barbara: Yes. 
Bob: Okay; so, there is a devotional you can take a family through as you hang this on the tree. 
Barbara: Correct. 
Dennis: You can talk to a child about what happens when light comes into a dark room. 
Barbara: Or you can ask your kids, “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?” and talk about the difference between light and dark. 
Dennis: You might take the—after reading the verse here—you might take this globe, after reading the verse, and turn off all the lights in your house. Then restate the verse again: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light…’”—and then flip the switch on and say, “What did the light do?”  “Well, it made apparent what reality is—
Bob: Yes. 
Dennis: —“and it caused the darkness to flee.”  

 Bob: “Do you like it better, as a child, when there is light on or when it’s dark?  Do you feel safer when there is light on or when it’s dark?”  
Dennis: Well, I can tell you—when I was a little boy, the most dangerous place on the planet was our basement. It was dark in there. There was an old, coal bin that no longer held coal; but there was no light bulb in there. 
I was convinced that there was a really big boogie man—[Laughter]—whom I called a booger man for a number of years—
Bob: Yes. 
Dennis: —but a boogie man who lived in there. I have to tell you—my mom would send me down to the basement to get a package of hamburger / frozen hamburger out of the freezer. I would carefully go down the steps. I would dash over to the freezer. 
Barbara: You’d run past that—
Dennis: I would!  
Barbara: —little bin. 
Dennis: I absolutely would. I’d grab the hamburger; and I bet I didn’t hit one out of every four steps coming back up, blazing at the speed of light. I was really afraid, as a boy / a young boy, of that darkness. I think there are a lot of kids that are afraid of the darkness, and they need to know the light. 
Bob: Alright; so, that’s in bag number one. Your thought is, with these ornaments—if you put each one in a bag and just marked them 1, 2, 3, and 4—it’s a way to create some mystery—
—get kids looking forward to “What’s next week?” I’d reach over here and get bag number 2. I’d pull out ornament that says that Jesus is the Son. What would you do with that?  
Barbara: I would read the story about Jesus is the Son, because it talks about why son-ship is important: “Why does it matter that Jesus came to earth as God’s Son?” I would talk about that with my kids. They might not all comprehend it because my little ones might be too little to get it; but it doesn’t matter. They would hear me talking about the Savior. 
Then, whoever’s turn it was to open that bag—it was their privilege to find the place on the tree for that. Kids will love that—I mean, they love getting into that and being the only one that week that got to hang an ornament. They feel special—it’s the honored place that child number 2 gets to open bag number 2—or whatever. 
Bob: So, what you are describing here might take a family three minutes. 
Dennis: Or it could take ten minutes if you had—
—if you decided to expand it a little bit and have a little bit of discussion, depending on the age of the kids. 
Barbara: Right; but the point is—is it would not take very long if you were really rushed. I think so often we hesitate to do something like this that’s meaningful, because we think we are not prepared. We think it’s going to take too long / it’s going to be too much work / too much trouble. But, as we just illustrated, paper lunch sacks are very easy to do. You can put a number on it with a red or green magic marker; and the kids are still going to get into it. 
Bob: And that three minutes—we may think that’s not significant—but when you make an impression like that in three minutes, ten years later, kids are still talking about, “I remember that year that Mom did the thing with the sacks.”  
Barbara: Right; and we forget the power of God’s Word. We forget that God’s Word never returns void. If we—even if we do nothing but read Jesus’ name, and read the verse, and hang the ornament on the tree, we are helping to turn our kids’ hearts toward Christ—even with just that little bit. 
Dennis: And don’t underestimate the power that this can have, even on a toddler. I’ve watched this happen with children—18 months / 24 months old—even though they are not yet able to string words together in a sentence, they understand more than you think. 
Barbara: They do. 
Dennis: You may go through all four of these, and you may talk about each of the names of Christ and how His first Advent represented those things. When you pull them out a year from now, ask your son or your daughter if he or she remembers what that is all about. 
Bob: So, sack number three has, in it, the ornament that says, “Jesus is the Word.”  John 1: “In the beginning was the word, the word became flesh…”  A lot of people struggle with that concept of, “What does it mean that Jesus is the Word?”  How would you explain that to a five-year-old?  
Barbara: Well, I think I would go back to Genesis; because in the beginning—in Genesis 1—it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Then, when you read the verse that’s on the globe— 
—“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God”—and you tie those two together, you help your child understand that the Word is a name for God; and that’s Jesus’ name, because He came to earth to talk to us /  to tell us in words who God is. 
Word is not the kind of term we use as a name / we use all kinds of other terms as names; but in God’s economy, the term, “Word,” is a name that describes perfectly who Jesus is. It is a hard concept, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach it. Help your kids begin to understand that Jesus is the Word because of what He came to do. 
Bob: Wait. You’re opening the fourth sack?  
Dennis: I’m going to do at least one—at least one. I really like this one; because this speaks of “Jesus is the Messenger,”—it is red / has gold letters that are raised—and it says, “The messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold He is coming.” 
That’s from Malachi, Chapter 3, verse 1. 
And the cool thing about Him being the messenger is—He brought the message of redemption to the planet—and this is the gospel. You have children who need to be introduced to Jesus Christ and be invited to place their faith in Him as their Lord and Savior. Well, you can be a messenger; and then you can talk about—after they receive the Messenger—they, too, can represent Him and be a messenger on His behalf. 
I think—if there is a big issue missing in families today—is we’re not on message and we’re not on mission. We’re not fulfilling what God created us to be and to do in this culture. I think, once again, it points out the need, here at Christmastime, how Jesus gave us a message that the world really needs today. People need to know His love and His forgiveness. 
They feel guilty because of what they’ve done wrong. They need to know that Almighty God has forgiven them by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for their sins. 
Barbara: And I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s the missing part of Christmas, which is why I’m trying to help turn families to conversations about Christ; because that’s what Christmas is all about. It’s all about the coming of Jesus Christ to our planet because He loved us / because He knew we needed to be redeemed. We need to be talking about that more at Christmas. That’s our goal / that’s our purpose—is to try to help families have tangible ways—things they can put on their tree / things that they can touch and talk about that help them keep the focus of Christmas on the real meaning for the holiday and not get pulled off and distracted by all the other things that are around us that take our eyes off the real reason for Christmas. 
Dennis: If you think about it—your children, as they grow up and become teenagers, if there is ever a time in a young person’s life when they need to know that God has a mission for them / that God has a purpose for them and He wants them to be messengers— 
—I think it’s during the teenage years. It’s when their friends are pressing in with other messages and trying to get them to conform to the world. This is really a valuable object lesson at Christmastime that can be applied in a young lady’s life or in a young man, who is growing up to adulthood. 
Bob: Well, again, I’d encourage our listeners—they’ve heard us talking about what you’ve been doing—but they need to see it. They can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and see this year’s ornaments that you’ve created. These are the Advent names—they are in globe shape. You can order them from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or if you just want to look at them—again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. 
You can also order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. There is a set of four globe-shaped ornaments—
—one that identifies Jesus as the Son; Jesus as the Messenger; Jesus is the Word; and Jesus is the Light—with corresponding Bible verses on each of these globes. Again, order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order the new Adorenaments® or previous sets that are available as well. 
Now, today is Giving Tuesday, here in the United States. I know last Friday was the big shopping day; and non-profit ministries, like ours, are hoping that today will be a big giving day. The end of the year is a significant time for ministries, like ours. This is a time when as much as 40 percent of our annual revenue comes in, when people make yearend contributions. Next year and what we’re able to do in the year ahead really is determined, in large measure, by what happens today and in the weeks to come, leading up to New Year’s Day. 
Have you thought about making a yearend contribution to support FamilyLife Today?  A day like Giving Tuesday would be a great day to do that. I’m going to let our listeners in on a little secret—there’s a matching gift that some friends of our ministry have put together. They are making these matching funds available for donations that we receive during the month of December. I asked our team, “Would it be possible for folks, who give on Giving Tuesday, for those funds to be matched as well?”  It seems like if folks are going to the effort to give on a day like today, we ought to see if we could get those funds matched. We’ve been able to clear the hurdles—it’s all okay with the folks who are making the matching funds available. Whatever you give today will be tripled, thanks to the matching gift. If you give a dollar, we’ll add two dollars to that from the matching fund. 
So, would you consider going online and making a gift to support FamilyLife Today or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation? 
Thanks for whatever you are able to do in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today, here on Giving Tuesday. We appreciate your partnership with us. 
And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking with Barbara Rainey about how we can keep Christ at the center of our thinking during the weeks leading up to Christmas. 
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 tomorrow 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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