Lit white candle and evergreen tree in white pot with white lights

We have forgotten much more than the ‘Reason for the Season’

Jay Smith, YTI President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Winter 2019-2020 Inscribed

The season is upon us — the season of Advent, which then quickly flows in to Christmastide (December 25-January 5 — also known as the “12 Days of Christmas”), and then on to Epiphany (January 6).

As Protestant Christians we tend to focus on “Christmas Day,” and most of us have heard about and even celebrated Advent; however, almost none of us have any idea about Epiphany! In short, all three liturgical events reflect the immanent coming, the actual birth of, and then the reality of God’s Word becoming “flesh” and dwelling among us.

Only One Day?

Think of it this way: from the first Sunday of Advent through Epiphany – roughly six weeks – we are celebrating the birth of God’s Word-as-Son into the world. We often talk about how people have forgotten, “the reason for the season,” but the truth is we have forgotten so much more! Indeed, we have reduced the seasons of Advent and Lent into single day events – Christmas and Easter. One day. Only one day each to remember the birth, death, and resurrection of God’s Word, His Son, in our world!

It is true then. Our world has now simply turned our “holy days” into “holidays” – days of consumer consumption.

Rethinking Our Celebration

For some, it will be too late to re-capture what the early church fathers and mothers intended with these seasons, yet I suggest we try. It means rethinking how we celebrate and what we consume.

Carefully plan out what your personal schedule — and your family’s schedule — will be during Advent, the days leading up to Christmas. Have an advent wreath on your dinner table. Light the appropriate candle for the week before dinner. Do this all the way until Christmas Eve. At dinner on Christmas Eve, light the Christ candle!

Plan the next 12 days as learning days, each with a special meal and explanation of how “Christmas Tide” teaches us about Jesus. On Epiphany, we celebrate the fullness of God’s Son in the flesh. The “season of Epiphany” stretches all the way to the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, which signifies the beginning Lent. It’s a great time for a family Bible study on the life of Jesus!

God Descended … and Jesus Ascended

One of the most important theological truths for a follower of Christ is that God descended from His holy dwelling, and through His Word, by His Spirit, became like us. Indeed, it goes hand-in-hand with the truth that Jesus ascended to the Father in resurrection from the dead — a precursor to the resurrection that every believer will experience at the end of time.

This holiday season, don’t go out and spend yourself into debt; rather, establish a new tradition for your family. A meaningful Christmas season is so much richer than a “me” Christmas.

Dr. Jay Smith is president and Bridger professor of theology and ethics at Yellowstone Theological Institute. He has taught at Howard Payne University, Baylor University, and the United States Naval Academy. A published author, he and Stanley Grenz co-created The Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (IVP, 2003) and Created for Community Revised Edition (Baker Academic, 2015). A conversation with Jay reveals his passions for literature and adventure. He loves to hike, compose music, and write about Jesus. Jay roots for the Baylor Bears and Howard Payne Yellowjackets.

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