A number of years ago, the Higham family was introduced to an exciting Advent tradition. While serving as the youth pastor, at St. Paul's in Somerset, our new friends asked if we had ever read a book called, Jotham's Journey, by Arnold Ytreeide. Of course we had not.
As the Christmas season approached, a family in the church shared their copy of Jotham's Journey with us. That Christmas we began reading. Unfortunately, our kids were still a little too young. But then we tried again the next Christmas. Success!
Advent is all about preparing for Christmas and the arrival of the Christ-child. From lighting candles to sharing in various devotions, the idea of having some kind of family Advent tradition is nothing new. But these adventurous storybooks help to reimagine and rethink the Advent season.
Jotham's Journey was the first storybook we read as a family during Advent. For each day in Advent, you read another chapter in the book. Each chapter stretches the adventure, leading both Jotham and the reader on an amazing journey. Within a couple of chapters our kids were hooked. Suspense, mystery, adventure, sword fights, good guys, bad guys, and edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers make this series an exciting must read Advent tradition. And it's been our tradition ever since.
We love these books and we want to share them with your family this Advent season!
The following is my manuscript for a message I shared with the M.O.P.S. group that my wife co-led while we served at St. Paul's EP Church in Somerset, PA. It was geared towards the moms who share the burden of high Christmas expectations. But I think there is something in here that we might all benefit from. It might be time to lower our expectations just a bit.
Christmas Expectations...By Jay Higham
It’s a real honor to be here with you all this morning. I know how much M.O.P.S. has blessed Amy, so this is a true privilege for me.
This morning I want to talk about Christmas Expectations.
A couple of Sundays ago I came home from church to find Amy, struggling with all five kids, trying to take this year’s Christmas picture. Amy had picked out matching sweaters, had everyone dressed and ready, but of course, the kids were not cooperating.
#1 was fussing because he had to sit near #2. #5 wanted to sit with #2. And 3 & 4 were just giddy laughing at each other. I walked in to find Amy, pleading with the everyone, trying to get this picture, but it just wasn’t working.
So I come in, and being the fixer I am, I start barking out commands to the kids, attempting to get them to sit still and cooperate for the photo. But I wasn’t helping like I thought I was. In fact I remember making a statement that the whole process was a waste of time, it wasn’t going to happen, it really wasn’t that important.
Well that didn’t help anything. In fact Amy left the living room in tears because while I thought this was all a waste of time, to Amy, this was important, it wasn’t a waste of time, and it needed to happen. This was suppose to be the perfect Christmas picture.
I think we all have Christmas Expectations. Whether it’s the perfect Christmas picture with matching sweaters and smiling faces, or the perfect excursion to find the perfect tree. Maybe it’s the perfect Christmas Eve service with everyone dressed and ready, (and not falling down the stairs, arriving late, and finding no room in the inn).
As moms, you have expectations that propel your Christmas preparations. And while some expectations can be good, its the expectations that crush our hearts when they aren’t fulfilled that cause the most pain and frustration at Christmas.
This whole idea of Christmas Expectations got me thinking about the nativity. I wondered what expectations Mary might of had as she thought about what her first “Christmas” would look like.
Think about this with me. Place yourselves in the sandals of Mary, the soon to be new mom. What might you be expecting?
- Mary was still a young teenager. While it was customary for girls to be pledged and wed while in their young teens, perhaps Mary was expecting a little more time with her friends. Time to enjoy her youth, to frolic, and play, delaying the responsibilities that would come with adult life.
- We know that Mary was pledged to be married to a young carpenter named Joseph. Perhaps she was expecting the traditional wedding and celebration. Gifts, time with friends and family, all the proper and customary experience a future bride would be looking forward to.
- The honeymoon is time in which the bride and groom seclude themselves for a time of private intimacy. It’s a time to get to know each other in ways that courting/dating doesn’t allow for. Perhaps Mary was expecting time to get to know her new husband, who he was, and what the marriage would look like.
To Be Near Mom...
- There is a special relationship that develops between some women and their mothers in those early years of marriage as they seek advice as young wives. Things like cooking and favorite recipes, pregnancy questions, birthing practices, child rearing, and counseling as they try to figure out how to live with a guy. Perhaps Mary was expecting to be near her mom during those early months of her new relationship with Joseph and as she carried and gave birth to her quickly coming son.
Care, Support, and Help...
- We have hospitals, doctors, nurse, mid-wives, family, and support networks that surround us as we prepare to welcome a new life into the world. Perhaps Mary expected the advice of her mom, the wisdom of a mid-wife, a familiar and comfortable setting, and the support of other women.
To Live a Normal Life...
- We all want to enjoy life and the little pleasures, joys, successes, and adventures that we have along the ways. Perhaps Mary expected a quite life in a friendly community with family and friends near by. Perhaps she looked forward to visits from guests, raising a family in the traditional way, fulfilling her place as a Jewish woman in the society.
They were expecting a conqueror, one who would overthrow the oppression of Rome. They expected mighty leader ready to rebuild the great nation that Israel once was.
The problem with all of this is, the birth of the Messiah wasn’t as anyone had expected. The future Redeemer of God’s people was to be a king. A king; the likes of ing David, the greatest king of Israel. They were expecting a conqueror, one who would overthrow the oppression of Rome. They expected mighty leader ready to rebuild the great nation that Israel once was.
And like Mary, and all of Israel, we too have expectations about what Christmas should be like and who Jesus really is. But the truth is, God’s plans for our lives are not what many of us expect.
The Gospel of Luke shares the most detailed look at Christ’s birth. In Chapter 2 of Luke’s narrative we read the birth of our Savior. Take a minute and read Luke 2. [ Click Here - Luke 2 ]
I suspect Mary lived a life she never expected to live. From the stable to the foot of the cross, any dreams or expectations she might have had were let go so that God’s will could be fulfilled through her and her son. And if we know anything about how God operates, it’s that He doesn’t do things the way we expect. In fact, God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
So with all that said, what expectations do you have for your Christmas celebration. Have you sought out the perfect tree, shopped for the perfect gift, snapped the perfect Family Christmas Photo, or lived the perfect life this past year?
If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that God isn’t looking for the perfect, but dwells in the imperfect. And the only thing we can truly expect is that God will do the unexpected.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that the expectations we all have about what Christmas SHOULD look like, will painlessly vanish and that we would wake on that humble morning and realize that through a series of unexpected events, the God of Creation redeemed His people in the birth of a little baby, in a stable, in a town called, Bethlehem.
- jay higham
In the fall of 2012, I released my first children's. It was a short bedtime story that came late one night and involves our daughter. "Mommy, There's a Dragon in my Room!" was a fun, surprising tale based on our daughters wonderful imagination. After the book was published, Amy began encouraging me to write another book; a Christmas book.
While I was open to the idea, I didn't have a story to tell. So, no Christmas book. 2 years later, I had a story. And it's the best story in the world!
Just before Thanksgiving, I had a burst of creativity. A simple story in rhymn, that reminds us WHY Christmas is and should be the very best time of the year. At a time when lights and decorations, candies and Christmas tree, gifts and stockings Christmas has become a major money-making event around the world. Now I'm not condemning any of those things. In their proper perspective, those things are great. But when the crowd out the real reason for the season, well, then I have a problem.
So what makes Christmas the BEST time of the year?
Christmas is the Best Time of the Year, is my new Christmas themed book. I hope that you would take a few minutes to visit my the books webpage and order a copy!
If you do order a copy, Thank You! And, could you send a link to a friend or two and share the book with them. Right now I am launching a small grassroots marketing campaign with the hopes of it growing to something really exciting!
Click on the link below for more information, the teaser video, and to information to order your copy, Christmas is the Best Time of the Year.
- the higham family
Life in the Higham House
Christmas Special - Christmas Day 2016
It's been a couple of weeks since Christmas, but I finally finished editing our Christmas vlog! So please enjoy our first, Life in the Higham House, Christmas Day Special.
Watch our Christmas Eve Vlog: https://youtu.be/UtiniBlPhQg
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Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.