Recently I helped my mum declutter her five-bedroom house. Amongst the books I found a treasure from my childhood... the Advent book our family read every December in preparation for Jesus' birthday. The Advent calendar that went with it has gone missing but I still remember the magic of opening a door on the calendar each day in December to reveal a picture that formed part of the nativity story. I always longed to be the child who opened the door on Christmas Eve - there were four kids in my family so I had to wait four years between turns! The reason I loved opening the Christmas Eve door was because it revealed baby Jesus sleeping in the manger.
It's hard to put into words the incredible feeling that accompanied seeing Jesus behind the door. It's a feeling I still get about Christmas; this deep sense of awe and wonder that God has arrived on earth in a tiny, vulnerable human body. So when I see chocolate-filled "Advent calendars" with no hint of Jesus, filling the supermarket shelves, I feel indignant because they are not Advent calendars at all! Advent is a season that prepares us to celebrate the coming of our King in baby form.
I'm excited about reading the treasured Advent book with my kids this December. When Esther was a baby we bought an Advent calendar from Trade Aid with velcroed figures to stick on. Admittedly the sheep closely resemble chickens but still, it has a baby Jesus and he will appear on Christmas Eve, of course.
My prayer is that each of us would experience the wonder of seeing Jesus this Christmas and that we would share the story of his birth with someone who hasn't yet heard. God bless you this glorious Advent season.