Revive Our Hearts Weekend Podcast

— Audio Player —

Christmas Preparations

Episode notes:

These series make up today's Revive Our Hearts Weekend program:

"Making Christmas More Meaningful"

"Come Adore"

------------------

Mary Kassian: We celebrate Christmas for the entire month of December.

Lori Pajeau: It's a great time to have a memorial around a significant moment in our past

Mary: We will light a fire in the fireplace. We’ll light all the candles. We’ll sit around our family room.

Laura Green: Christmas isn’t about the tree, and it isn’t about the presents. It’s about the manger, so that’s the foundation.

Dannah Gresh: We’re decking the halls today as we prepare our hearts for the Christmas holiday. Join me, won’t you?

Welcome to Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh.

(big sigh) It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, and I’m still full. But somehow, I still have room for some of my family's famous peppermint bark pancakes!

The world is getting festive—twinkle lights are going up, Christmas music is playing. The craziness of the holidays is upon us—that hectic pace . . . I want to slow down today. What should it look like to get ready for Christmas? To really focus on Jesus, it’s not about the presents and wrapping paper, the holiday events, and dozens of cookies to bake—it is and it isn’t, you know what I mean?

We’ll talk about that today, but first I want to share a tradition from the Gresh home. Every year on Black Friday, you won’t find me shopping. Instead, our entire family bundles up in cozy winter gear and heads to our favorite local Christmas tree farm. We walk and talk until we find the perfect tree. For the record, the definition of a perfect tree is very debateable in the Gresh household. But we never miss cutting down our Christmas tree on Black Friday. Rain or snow. Cool or freezing cold. Even if we’re travelling. We’ve actually found a tree farm en route to cut down our tree on the way home! Why? It’s tradition!

A while back Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth sat down with several ladies and asked them to share their Christmas traditions. Let’s listen together.

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

Laura: 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.

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.

Woman: 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.

Listen to the entire episode, "Creating Traditions That Point to the Gospel." This comes from the series, "Making Christmas More Meaningful."

Dannah: Isn’t it great to hear how people use the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? 

You’ve probably experienced Christmas through a child’s eyes. I’m excited to share Christmas with my twin grandgirls: Addie and Zoe. This year they’re a little more aware at two-and-a-half than they were last year. Which I hope actually translates into excitement over the gift I'm buying for them . . . and not just the box it comes it!

But notice a child a little older, maybe in elementary school, they’re excitement for the coming Christmas morning is almost contagious. They’re waiting, they’re eager, they’re excited, they’re wanting to see what you’re going to put under the tree. They just CAN NOT wait for Christmas Day! 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth once said that she wished we would all retain that childlike wonder as grownup Christians, that we would have that kind of anticipation, excitement, and expectation.

Nancy spent some time digging in to all of the history and meaning Christmas hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." We’ll hear from her in a minute. But first let’s listen to the first verse, to refresh your memory of this rich hymn.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
.2

Nancy: Let’s talk about that through these next few moments. This stanza pictures the children of Israel in captivity. They were in captivity in Babylon, and they were longing for a Messiah, a rescuer, a deliverer to come and set them free. They were captive; they were in exile. We read about this in the Old Testament.

They were away from their homeland, away from their temple, away from their worship, away from what was familiar. They were living somewhere they didn’t really belong. They were in a foreign culture that didn’t know their God—Yahweh, Jehovah—didn’t honor their God.

Life was hard. It was a secular existence in which they found themselves. Does that sound anything like what we live in today? In exile? We’re pilgrims, we’re foreigners, we’re strangers the Scripture tells us. We don’t belong here, on this earth.

We’re misfits! Do you ever feel that way—in your home, in your environment—misfits. This writer picked up on this theme centuries ago, expressing the mourning, the grieving, the sadness, the longing to be delivered and set free.

We could say this also applied to the Jews when they were captives in Egypt, when they were slaves in Egypt. For 400 years they worked, they labored, they were enslaved, they were under the dominion of Pharaoh, they were in bondage, they were in exile. They cried out. They longed to be set free!

And God finally did send a deliverer, and every Old Testament deliverer that God sent was a type, a picture, of the ultimate Deliverer who would come and rescue God’s people from their captivity.

So the Messiah was the Promised One for whom they were waiting—the one who would ransom God’s people, who would redeem them, who would deliver them from their captivity. So they pray, out of their captivity, out of their mourning, out of their lonely exile—“O come, O come Emmanuel!”

Emmanuel . . . this is one of the titles for Messiah that we find in the Old Testament. It comes from Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14. Let me give you just a little of the context. You’re familiar with the verse (which I’ll quote in just a moment), but you may not be familiar with the backdrop. Where did this verse come from?

Ahaz was the king of Judah. The people of God were being threatened by an alliance of two northern armies, Syria and Israel. And the people of God, led by King Ahaz, were terrified! The prophet Isaiah came to the king with a promise from God. Here was the promise, Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive.”

Now . . . unthinkable! Impossible! We’re so familiar with this verse we just say it like, you know, there’s nothing special about it. This is astonishing! This is impossible! “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name [what?] Immanuel.” 

Immanuel . . . Hebrew for “God with us.” Now, imagine what this word would have said to a king who was terrified of two encroaching, powerful nations threatening to wipe him out. The prophet says, “There’s a sign that’s going to be given . . . a miracle, a wonder-sign . . . and the name of this child who will be born is ‘God is with us.’”

Now, if God is with you, do you think you need to be afraid of these two armies? You see, it just gives you perspective. Your position is that God has come to be with you. So this promise in the book of Isaiah had an immediate historical fulfillment—there was a child who was born.

We don’t exactly know who that child was, or what the circumstances were, but there was something special and unusual about his birth. And Isaiah was saying before the child was old enough to reason—when the child was still little—the alliance between the two threatening powers would be broken.

This sign that God gave in Isaiah’s day, in Ahaz’ day, assured the people of God’s presence and of the coming deliverance.

Now, fast forward seven-hundred years—after the time of Isaiah—and an angel comes to a young unmarried virgin in Nazareth and tells her that she’s going to have a child, Matthew 1:22–23: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken [seven-hundred years earlier] by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name [what?] Immanuel (which means, God with us).’”

So, God was with His people in Isaiah’s day, and He sent a sign to prove it. God was with His people in the days of Mary of Nazareth, when the people were under the thumb of the Roman Empire, and God sent Immanuel to be with His people. 

And God is with us today. He has sent Emmanuel, God Himself with us. The coming of Emmanuel to earth—the coming of God to earth—makes all the difference in the world . . . not just for the Jews in exile (whether in Egypt or in Babylon) or the Jews under the Roman Empire, but for God’s people today. “God with us” makes all the difference!

And so, the hymn says, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” You see, until the Son of God appeared, we were in captivity, we were in bondage, we were enslaved to Satan, to sin, to ourselves. 

The coming of Emmanuel means the end of captivity. We’ve been set free! We’ve been ransomed, we’ve been redeemed, we’ve been delivered! Until the Son of God appeared, we were in exile. That word means “to banish or expel from one’s own country or home; to drive away.” We were in exile!

You say, “From where were we in exile?” Well, Alfred Lord Tennyson said in his poem, "The Palace of Art," "We were exiled from eternal God." Banished. Expelled from the heart and the home of God, driven away by our sin. It had put us in exile from eternal God. Until the Son of God appeared, we were in exile.

But the coming of Emmanuel means the end of exile. We’re no long alienated. We’re no longer separated from God. We’re no longer separated from one another. Ephesians 2:19 says, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Through Emmanuel, we have been brought back home out of exile, back to the heart and home of God!

Listen to the entire episode, "Come Adore, Day 1." This comes from the series, "Come Adore."

Mary Kassian: Being German, I grew up with an Advent celebration. 

Dannah: Here’s my good friend Mary Kassian sharing a Christmas tradition from her home.

Mary: 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.

So really we celebrate Christmas for the entire month of December.

Dannah: I want to talk about Mary’s tradition for a moment. Mary shared how the Kassian family prepared to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus.

This year the first Advent Sunday falls this weekend. As Mary said, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, and it ends Christmas Eve. 

Some families have an advent wreath that contains five candles. Each candle represents a theme of each Sunday or week and the candles are lit in successive order. 

So over the next four weeks I want you and I to do Advent readings together. Imagine with me that we have a wreath here. On this first weekend of Advent, we focus on hope or promise. We find hope in many places in God’s Word, but for today, let’s read John 8:12. Turn with me if you can, or open your Bible app on your phone. 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The story of Jesus’ birth actually began thousands of years before he was born. God promised the people of Israel that he would provide a Messiah (Savior) to save them from their sins. As we heard Nancy talk about earlier, the people of Israel waited a long, long time, with great hope for the Messiah to come.

Let’s turn now to Isaiah 9:2.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

The prophet Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Jesus, predicted the birth of Jesus as a promise of hope from God. The word Immanuel means "God with us." Isaiah’s words were fulfilled when Jesus came to live on earth. He came as the Messiah. He came to set His people free.

Can I read more of the passage in Isaiah where he talked about the coming King? Again, this is Isaiah 9, beginning with verse 2.

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
   on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
   and the staff for his shoulder,
   the rod of his oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
   and every garment rolled in blood
   will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
   there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
   to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (vv. 2–7)

Chills just ran up my arms.

Oh thank You Lord, that You sent Your Son to give us hope. I pray that this hope will be planted deep within our hearts this Christmas season.

As you look through your to-do list what is one thing you could get by without doing and maybe spend the time you would have spent on that one thing focusing on the hope that Christ brought?

On our website there’s a list of the Scriptures I read today and a few others to meditate on to help you focus on Christ. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com/weekend and click on today’s episode "Christmas Preparations." 

Please take some time this week to do that—slow down, my friend, and focus on the One who is the reason for this season. As cliche-ish as that sounds, it’s true.

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel
Shall come to thee oh Israel.

As we’ve been talking today about preparing for Christmas, we at Revive Our Hearts are already preparing for the coming year. Did you know that almost half of our yearly budget comes in between now and the end of the year? Those gifts that come in at year end allow us to reach women like you who want to grow in their walk with God. We long to share the freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ to even more women in 2022. Would you consider how you can financially help us reach our end of year goal? Just call us at 1–800–569–5959 if God is prompting your heart to help us reach the end of year financial goal. Or go to ReviveOurHearts.com/weekend and click on today’s episode. It’s called “Christmas Preparations.” 

Next week, well, I’ve been working on memorizing Psalm 91. I’m so excited to share what God has laid on my heart about how memorizing is really meditating.

Thanks for listening today. Thanks to our team who deck the halls or trim the tree with their own traditions. Phil Krause and family (which includes our editor Rebekah) wait until there's snow on the ground to get their tree (I sure hope it snows for them) because they found a tree farm with horse-drawn wagons, and the family outing is best with some snow on the ground. We have a picture of the Krauses and their first Christmas in Michigan on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com/weekend. It’s a picture perfect Christmas card.

Blake Bratton says he and his wife have a very special tradition. It's finding a place for all the ugly ornaments on the back of the tree. Justin Converse’s family puts up their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving (like the Gresh family)—no ifs, ands or buts. It’s a rule in the Converse household. Michelle Hill’s tree has been up for a month now. She just loves the anticipation of the season and the twinkle lights. And for Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh. I'm going to go have some peppermint bark pancakes.

Revive Our Hearts Weekend is an outreach of Revive Our Hearts calling women to freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

1“O Tannenbaum,” A Music Box Christmas ℗ 1980 Porter Music Box Co.

2“O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” For King & Country, A Drummer Boy Christmas 2020 Curb | Word Entertainment.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Support the Revive Our Hearts Weekend Podcast

Darkness. Fear. Uncertainty. Women around the world wake up hopeless every day. What if you could play a part in bringing them freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness instead? Your gift ensures that we can continue to spread the message that Christ is King and that the way to know Him is through His Word. Spread gospel hope! Donate now.

Donate Now

About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Host

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.