This blog originally appeared on IFYC.org.
Most of my friends know my strong affinity for finding a good bargain, negotiating prices, and thrifting (the practice of frequenting thrift stores and scoring high quality merchandise for a low price). My money-saving intensity has earned me the nickname “Budget Hacker,” and inspired me to launch a blog cataloging my thrifty practices.
But one thing I love spending money on? Christmas presents. I look forward to this season every year. I look forward to figuring out the perfect presents for my friends and family. A family member who marveled at one of my kitchen gadgets back in February will find an exact replica perfectly wrapped under the Christmas tree while I wait in gleeful anticipation until she opens the box with joy and surprise.
While I love buying gifts, I know too well how easy it is to get sucked into the never-ending hamster wheel of shopping, buying, and wrapping. How easy it is to lose out on not only the true meaning of Christmas, but also of Advent. Advent is one of the most important times on the Christian calendar, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, a time for Christians to prepare and wait for Jesus’ birth into the world.
Growing up in North Carolina, I loved my family’s Advent traditions. I would look forward to lighting the weekly advent candle on our church’s advent wreath, which symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent. As we got closer to Christmas, my family would read the story of Jesus’ birth from the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke in the Bible. It didn’t matter that I could recite the Christmas story verbatim – I loved hearing it again and again. My little sister and I would argue over who had the honor of moving the little mouse on our Advent calendar and might be the lucky recipient of a chocolate surprise. On the final night of Advent, we would visit our church’s Christmas Eve service, where we would sing carols at our church at the candlelight service. As we left the dark church holding our candles and softly singing Silent Night, I could feel in that moment the hope, excitement, and anticipation of waiting for our Savior’s birth.
This Advent, I am excited to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, my Lord and Savior. I hope to continue exploring what it means for me as a Christian to observe Advent – to worship, to love, and to give. Not just fancy kitchen gadgets, but what it means to give more of myself to my family, friends and community.
God came into this world as a shivering, helpless baby. Our King of Kings, Mighty God, Holy One, Emmanuel, was born outside in a manger and came to bring hope, love, and salvation to the world. And that’s a gift greater than any other. That’s a gift worth waiting for.