Every year I spend the entire month of December using my devotion time to focus on Christmas. I started many years ago when my daughters were in preschool. I wanted to make sure my girls knew the reason we celebrated Christmas because of God’s gift of Jesus—God with us—in the midst of the fun of decorations, cookies, toys, and Santa Claus.
At first our devotion time was short and simple because Kim and Erin were two and four. As they got older, I added more. It was a true gift when a group of women in my church met together to make an advent tree with cross-stitched ornaments and a verse to truly focus our devotion time. I added this to the advent wreath we already used on Sundays. Unlike other families, I added enough ornaments and verses to extend the celebration from December 1 through December 31; I wanted my family to continue to worship our Lord and Savior beyond December 25. I was especially happy when I read about an idea in the L.A. Times about a New Year’s Eve celebration and incorporated that as our last advent devotion.
Since those early years, I continued to study and learn about Advent and collected several books with new ideas. In 2011, I compiled everything into one place—a notebook with all of the Scripture printed out and the commentary from different sources incorporated. I gave copies of the notebook to my daughter, Erin, who continues the tradition with her children, Zach and Katie, my mom, my sister, and a couple of friends who were interested.
Last year I added two new things: Ann Voskamp’s advent wreath. I didn’t use the devotions she suggested, but continued using the verses I had been using for thirty years. But I love lighting a candle every day and moving the figure of Mary on the donkey forward day-by-day. I also added the idea of My One Word written by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen based on Ann Voskamp’s recommendation. It added a new, more focused dimension to the New Year’s Eve celebration of acknowledging Jesus as the Savior, confessing our sin and burning scraps of paper with our sins written on them in a black bag to signify we are freed from the wages of sin and death.
The purpose of My One Word is to change my life, “a simple but effective plan to effect personal change (spiritual formation) by allowing a single word to become the lens through which [I] proactively address the condition of my heart. [My] single word will force clarity and concentrate [my] efforts. As I focus on [my] word over an extended period of time, [I] position [my]self for God to form [my] character at a deep, sustainable level.” (pages 23-24)
My word for 2013 was GRACE. It transformed my attitude about myself. I became free(er) and more able to live and BE joyful as I learned and accepted God’s grace. It also transformed my attitude toward others. I wanted my default response to be one of grace instead of bitterness, anger, pride, impatience, and selfishness.
These changes I want to continue.
As I reflected on a variety of words for my 2014 focus, I prayerfully considered several: Forward. Forgiveness. Freedom. Joy. Thanksgiving. Serve.
But something Andy Stanley said in the series Your Move resonated: human beings were not meant to hold onto honor or credit—praise. Instead, we are created to pass that credit on to the One who deserves it: God. Andy Stanley says Christians should—in every situation, thought, attitude, choice—ask, “What would be most honoring to God? What would give God glory?”
According to Mr. Stanley, this will lead me past ideas of right and wrong. It will draw me into the life I was designed to live—beyond myself and to God.
And so, my word for 2014 is GLORIFY.
In each decision I face, in each situation I find myself, thinking through and choosing GLORIFY GOD will transform me from self to servant and ambassador of Christ. I will be “the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, [I will] let my light shine before me so that they may see my good deeds and PRAISE MY FATHER IN HEAVEN.” (Matthew 5: 14-16.)
Only God is worthy of praise.
I pray 2014 is one where I GLORIFY Him in all things.