Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Creating Traditions that Point to the Gospel

Leslie: Mary Kassian is co-author of the upcoming book True Woman 201: Interior Design. She describes some traditions that make Christmas meaningful at her house.

Mary Kassian: Being German, I grew up with an Advent celebration. So Advent was really looking forward to the coming. Advent is really important in our house. We set it up as a family tradition very early on. So we have to have our tree up, everything decorated, everything ready by first Advent, which sometimes is at the end of November if it comes early that particular year. (It’s four Sundays before Christmas.)

So every Sunday of Advent, we celebrate Advent, even if it’s a very simple celebration. What we will do is we will light a fire in the fireplace. We’ll light all the candles. We’ll sit around our family room, and then we will do just a very short Advent remembrance.

My husband would read a passage from the Word, and I have a Jesse tree. So every Advent you get to open one package and pull out all of these ornaments and put them on the tree. That was symbolic. The big thing is light the Advent candle and say a word of prayer and dig in and just sit around and really enjoy time together as a family.

It’s great preparation for Christmas. So really we celebrate Christmas for the entire month of December.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

Over the last couple of days we’ve been in a helpful series called, Making Christmas More Meaningful. Nancy Leigh DeMoss and a group of women are sharing some ideas.

Mary Burchfield: I’m Mary Burchfield, and we just love the season of Advent and Christmas at our house—not that we do it all right. I’m sure we have a lot of room to grow, but I think over the years I’ve learned to just simplify, too. I think I had high expectations that I kind of expect everyone else to kind of follow what you expect of meals or the tree or whatever.

How we celebrate it is, I have three children—a daughter ten years old, a son thirteen, and another son sixteen. After Thanksgiving we go to cut a tree down. I love it. There’s a Christmas tree farm over in White House, Ohio—I’m from the Toledo area. There’s a big sign that says, “We sell Christmas trees not holiday trees.”

So it’s just really special to us. We go out there and we let the children (each year we pick a turn—like it’s the oldest son’s turn), have a turn to pick the type of tree, and we’ll go out as a family. So we’re at least spending that time together.

We get the tree cut down, and we take it home. I’ve lowered the standards that the tree has to be decorated in a certain way. I love the children to really have fun with it. I think before I used to be particular, “No, don’t put it there.” Then you take the joy from them when you start to control all those little things. So we really let them have fun and pleasure, and we just kind of relax. We play music, and it’s just a really nice relaxing time whether it all gets decorated perfectly, it doesn’t really matter.

Then also we just look for opportunities. Through the school there’s a lot of needy families, and much more now with the economy. The principal will secretly just let you know of a family’s needs, and we’ll go out together (the boys not so much anymore, but with my daughter) to help select gifts for these families with a need. We just give not really knowing who will receive it.

And even with our gifts for the kids, they still do get gifts, but we really try more to give them gifts of things we can enjoy together as a family—just play things, it’s a we-all-can-enjoy time. It’s the time spent together not just the number of gifts and things like that.

Then in our church we have an Advent wreath, which is circular. I won’t be able to tell you every single thing, but it’s kind of continuous—as God is never ending; there’s no beginning and there’s no end. Usually there’s greenery, too. Again, that would be symbolic, I think, of the ever green (hopefully I’m getting everything right). Then you would have the candles. Different churches may use different colors. They’re usually symbolic of something, too, and usually a penitent heart as you’re preparing in that season.

It’s just the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it’s a time, much as Lent is, to prepare our hearts for Christmas. We would have a church service on Wednesday where you also celebrate, and then you light one new candle each Sunday. Then you usually have the Christmas candle in the middle of the wreath that you would light on Christmas morning.

Tammy Zebell: One of the things that’s most special to our family this time of the year is we really enjoy making soup and bread and then taking it out to different senior citizens throughout the month. I think the thing we enjoy the most is just being able to . . . they always want you to come in and sit down for an hour and just visit. They’re not always widows, but a lot of them are. They just like having somebody just be there in the house with them and share with them. That just blesses our hearts so much just to get to spend that time with the different senior citizens.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Tammy, I heard that you and Bill visited with Jean Murphy recently?

Tammy: Yes.

Nancy: Was that one of those?

Tammy: Yes.

Nancy: Can you just tell a little bit about that, because Jean has been a long, longtime praying friend and supporter of this ministry. She loves Revive Our Hearts; she has a heart for revival. 

Tammy: She’s just such a joy. The first thing she always asks me is, “Do you still work at Revive Our Hearts?” Actually, she’ll say, “Do you still work for Nancy?” And I say, “Yes, I’m still working for Nancy.” And she says, “Do you know that I pray for Revive Our Hearts every day, and I pray for Nancy every day?” And she does. She’s a real prayer warrior.

Personally, she mentored our son. Our son was, I don’t know, thirteen or fourteen years old, and he knew some about computers. They’d have him over like every week to do something on the computer, but they just really poured into his life. He’s on the mission field now, and she’ll say, “I pray for him every day.” And I know she does.

She has women, young ladies, and even young men over. Where she’s living now is on the way to a local community college, and she shares Bible studies. These kids, maybe eight or ten of them will come in on their way coming to or from school, and she has Bible studies with them.

She’s a wonderful blessing in our lives.

Nancy: She is a great blessing, but she’s also hurting. She’s lost her husband and is feeling not so needed, and her health is deteriorating. So I just heard you were going over there the other night. Any sense of what that meant to her to have you all stop by?

Tammy: It means a lot. We’ve heard this from several of the people we visit. They’re just lonely. A woman like Jean is in a wheelchair. She’s had to sell her car, so she can’t get out. Even the ones that can get out, this time of the year there is a lot of snow, so they can’t get out. Just having somebody come in and talk to them and especially share memories, share about their spouses is important. Let them tell you stories. You’ll learn lots of interesting things about people when you let them share their stories. They just really appreciate the time.

This was also a blessing for our children, too. We used to do this when our kids were home. Our kids are grown now, but we would take our kids out as well, and it was a real blessing to our kids to be able to be with a lot of elderly people. We home schooled, so we would take off the two weeks before Christmas instead of the two weeks after Christmas so we could do that because we just felt it was so important to do that with our children as well.

Laura Green: We always keep our manger scene or our nativity scene at the base of the Christmas tree. Somebody had mentioned about letting kids play with it. My mom always did that. We had the unbreakable figures, and we could always play with it. My little sister would cart Baby Jesus off, and He’d end up in the doll house or something. It’s a miracle He didn’t get lost over all those years. But we always let our kids play with it.

The significant thing for me, and what’s very precious, is the stable. It’s constructed out of the trunks of the Christmas trees from when we were growing up. I didn’t know this, but for years my dad would cut all of the branches off the Christmas trees and put them in the garage. We didn’t know he was saving all those trunks of the trees until we got married, and then he made us stables out of the trunks of the Christmas trees.

Every time I get that out and I put it up under my Christmas tree which, has been now for the last twenty-five years. We’ve been saving the trunks of our Christmas trees to do the same thing for our children. They know that’s coming. When they get married, they’ll get a stable. They’ve all talked about how they’re going to put theirs underneath their Christmas tree, and that tradition will continue.

It’s very special to me because my dad is not one to really let his emotions out. He’s not really sentimental. He's matter-of-fact; he’s a jokester. So the fact that he thought of that years ago is just so special to me. He planned years ahead to do that for us. That makes it very special.

I have always put the manger scene under the tree, at the base of the tree. It’s very symbolic. Christmas isn’t about the tree, and it isn’t about the presents. It’s about the manger, so that’s the foundation. It almost looks like the tree is resting on that, and then all the gifts go around behind it because the most important thing is the Baby in the manger. So that’s why we keep it there.

Nancy: And when you think of the manger being under the shadow of the tree, which is the ultimate purpose of it all, is the cross, it keeps that in perspective, too.

Debbie Kupferschmid: My husband grew up in a home where they didn’t always have a Christmas tree, and they didn’t do a whole lot. They’d go to his grandmother’s for Christmas Eve, and that was it. They just didn’t do much in his house, at his home.

So the first year we got married—and we got a live tree because that’s what I grew up with—he was so excited because he had never had this before. We had some ornaments that I had from my childhood, and we bought a few things. We had maybe two strings of lights for this tree.

I knew that when you decorate a Christmas tree, you have to put the lights on first. You can’t put the ornaments on first. You have to start with the lights. So he was all excited, and we opened a box, and he started picking out ornaments and started hanging them on the tree. I said, “Oh, no, no, no. You’ve got to put the lights on first.”

It just kind of threw him for a loop because I was taking over control. He just kind of went, “Okay, you do it.”

I was like, "What’s the matter with him?" I didn’t realize, but he felt very disrespected at that moment because I was telling him what to do. "You don’t do it this way; you do it my way." I realized I’d made a huge mistake, and it took a few years undo that and get him back into—you know, “Go ahead and do it however you want.”

First Peter 3 talks about winning our husbands with a gentle and quiet spirit and a respectful spirit. So if you want your husband to step in and lead in that area, then we have to do it by stepping back and letting him do it, and prayer—lots of prayer.

Elsa Mazon: One way that I have found to keep myself associated with the Lord and with my faith and also in a very subtle yet gentle and welcoming way to speak truth to my family and everybody who’s visiting . . . Because if you go to a Latin home during the holidays, there’s always going to be people around. I’m pretty sure in many of your homes that is the same way.

I have replaced the CDs to be played for Christian music CDs for Christmas. They’re there, and you see Steve Green and Damaris Carbaugh and The Brooklyn Tabernacle. I’m sure you have your own favorites for the season. But they replaced Frank Sinatra and some of the other ones.

Lori Pajeau: My name is Lori Pajeau, and I just thought I would share a Christmas tradition that we have started. What we do is every year we think of one significant event that happened to us that year, and then we create an ornament around that, and then we decorate our tree with those ornaments. So it’s fun because then when the next year comes around, we can unwrap and go through previous years and the ornaments and the meanings and events that happened around those particular events in our lives.

Nancy: So a couple of ornaments you could share about with us?

Lori: Well, we had our marriage. We had our baptism. We had new jobs. We had loved ones that passed away. We made ornaments around their lives. It’s a great kind of time to have a memorial around a significant moment in our past, and so much of it is special events and special people that happened.

Nancy: Great. Good. One of the things that’s been a big blessing to me, and this does not involve other people, but just in our own personal journey during these seasons. During both Lent, leading up to Easter, and Advent, leading up to Christmas—I can’t say I do this every year, but many years—in my devotional reading, I will pick a book or one or more books that are about the focus on that season.

So like right now I’m reading through a book that is a series of sermons on the birth of Christ that were compiled by somebody many years ago. These are all old sermons. Some of them are by Charles Spurgeon, and some of these great old preachers. But they’re printed sermons. So I’m reading through those.

During Lent I’ll pick a book that focuses on the Passion of Christ, the cross, the resurrection of Christ—something that is focusing my thinking. So I’m in the Word, but also supplementing that with reading on the Christmas story or whatever season it is to just get my heart tuned and focused, because the message we’re getting everywhere else pretty much, except on the night you happen to be at church, but everywhere else it’s so secular.

I’m wanting to just fill my heart with thinking that is provoking thoughts about Christ. That’s been a big blessing to me. It gets me focused on that season. With everything else that’s going on, that’s where my heart gets quiet, in that reading.

Woman: You’re talking about ornaments, and there’s one that I in particular favor. If you were to look at my Christmas tree right about eye level, there is this big, red apple hanging there as an ornament. On it is the tag that . . .

Nancy: Is it a real apple?

Woman: No, it isn’t. You could do that, but I just got one of those fake ones. The tag says, “For by one man, sin entered into the world." Of course, if you’re thinking biblically, you see an apple, you think of Adam and Eve. So as the entrance of sin entered into the world, right next to it is this little wafer of bread that is also hanging. That is that His body was broken on the cross for us, and He is the Bread of Life.

Then right in the center—and the goal of that, if you can imagine, if you’re decorating with your kids, you think, How can we have this? Or if you have people, unsaved relatives or anybody in your home, they’re asking, “Why do you have an apple on your tree?”

“Oh, am I ever glad you asked.” It gives you a wide open opportunity to share with them.

Nancy: Great. Yes. You’re wanting to create conversation with your children, with people in your home. And it goes back again to these Old Testament pictures of, on this special night, this night of all nights. And your children say, “What does this mean, what we’re eating, what we’re looking at, these symbols?” Then you explain to them. And you don’t just explain it once. You explain it over and over and over again. We need to retell them the story—for ourselves, for our families, and for those around us.

So it really is an incredible opportunity to honor Christ, to have our hearts tuned toward Him, to reflect the heart of Christ—we’ve heard that in some of these accounts—about giving. What a great challenge for us to be counter-cultural.

We always talk in this ministry about the counter-cultural revolution and swimming upstream. This is one area. So I think there’s a challenge for us to swim upstream, and what that looks like for you, depending on your season of life and how the Lord leads you, may be very different. But I want to just challenge you to think about it, to be intentional—not to just go with the flow of what the culture is doing.

The older you get, do you agree with me, that it just all goes faster? It’s like a stream that’s just carrying you along. And then you say, “Whew! That was gone.” We’re exhausted and broke and depressed, and it’s no wonder that for so many people that January is such a down time for people because it’s been all about me, and I am so empty. Or it’s all about fulfilling other people’s expectations. Somewhere the Lord just got left out of all of this.

I’ve been so blessed listening to some of you share what you do to make this a meaningful time. I hope that many of our listeners who are hearing these programs will write and tell us what you have done, some creative ideas, things that have made Christmas meaningful to you.

In fact, go to our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. Go down to the comment blog at the end of the program, and post a note there about what you do that’s meaningful. It will be something that will perhaps encourage others as well. 

That’s what we want—to make Christ known ourselves as having been through this season, and then to have others love Him more as well. Some of you have talked about children—to know that the baton of faith, the baton of truth is being passed on to the next generation. Lord willing, some day they’ll be sharing some of these things with their children and grandchildren as well.

Thank You, Lord, for these ladies. Thanks for what they’ve shared, the encouragement, the challenge of some who really are swimming upstream. My own heart is challenged. I pray that You will bless the thoughts that have been shared. Even in these short weeks left between now and Christmas, would You help us to remember just one thing we’ve heard that would prompt a thought or an idea that would add a layer of significance and meaning to our celebration this season.

Show us what that might be, and then help us not to foolishly make all kinds of extravagant or big plans or ideas, but to ask You what one or two things You might have us to do that would be a blessing to You, to us, and to those around us.

We love You, Lord Jesus. We bless You, and we say, “Thank You for Christmas.” Thanks for this day. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with a group of women about eliminating unrealistic expectations for the holidays and replacing them with traditions that keep us focused on Christ.

If you’ve missed any of this series, you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com. It’s called, "Making Christmas More Meaningful."

When Nancy Leigh DeMoss chose the songs to record for a new Christmas CD, you can imagine, she wanted the songs to be very meaningful. 

Nancy: I love the way that so many of the carols on this album use the word "come." They are carols that express the Old Testament longing for Christ to come and visit His people. Then as New Testament believers, we pray, "O Lord, come and minister to our hearts. Make yourself real to us in this season.

"Come Lord Jesus" is the cry of all of us who love and worship Christ and who long for His second appearing. In response to who He is and what He has done, there is that invitation to come adore Him, Jesus Christ the Lord.

It's my prayer that that's what you will be doing all throughout this season as there are all kinds of activities and busyness and things that can make you frantic and frenetic. But I hope that your focus will be on Christ the Lord and that your heart will be full of worship and gratitude as you come adore Him. 

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. We’d like to send you the brand new CD Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking about. It’s called Come Adore

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, the CD is our way of thanking you. So ask for Come Adore when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you know Gratitude can be a choice? And when you choose gratitude, it can change the way you view everything. Nancy will talk about it with Barbara Rainey tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Barbara Rainey: Individually we need to monitor what we are taking into our brains. You talk about that in your book, how important the mind is. It does start in the heart, but the mind is influencing the emotions of the heart. If we are focusing on the negative, then our heart is going to become fearful. If we are focusing on God's providence and His sovereignty and His plan, then our heart is much more inclined to trust and then be grateful.

Nancy: That's the whole concept of renewing our minds according to the truth of God's Word. That's why one of the things that I discipline myself to do is to get more intake of the Word of God into my mind than I do from the external culture.

There's that recalibrating of our minds and our hearts and to focus on the things that are true and lovely and are of good report and things that are sure even when everything around us seems to be unsure and unsteady.

Barbara: I agree with you. I think what we put in our minds is crucial. That's why I'm excited you wrote the book about gratitude, because I think we need that in our culture because there is so much to complain about. On the surface, looking at the news reports, there is a lot to be concerned about. But we need to discipline our minds to be thankful and grateful. We need to put into our thinking the things that are right and true.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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