a window view of a Christmas store, with Christmas trees, wreaths, and presents on display

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas

By Lauren Gideon

There is something special about childhood. Overlay the beauty and simplicity of childhood with the sacred spectacular atmosphere of the holidays, and that intersection seems nothing short of magical. This wedge, where those two events overlap, is so powerful that grown adults constantly search for ways to replicate that experience and those sentiments. Our song lyrics and storylines are strong indicators of this reality. What changes as we age? Why can’t we always (only) experience that perceived magical atmosphere? Why does everything feel so complicated? 

A few years ago, I was in line at the grocery store, listening to the conversation between the cashier and a customer unfolding in front of me. As the customer prepares to depart, the cashier extends the farewell of “Happy Holidays.” In disgust, the customer replies with a harsh and sharp, “Merry Christmas!” 

Wait. What just happened?

My thoughts started taking inventory. “Did that customer just use a Christmas salutation as retaliation?” In true sports commentary fashion, let’s look at the replay. In this scenario, the cashier was perceived to have been using the “happy holidays” greeting as a way to deny the real “reason for the season.” But was she? Is there anything wrong with “happy holidays”? Was the cashier maliciously trying to cancel Christ? Was the offended customer claiming to be a Christian? The irony of the retort was amusing, to say the least. There was nothing merry about her tone or her intent. And I’m not very confident that Person, whose birth she thought she was defending, would have been pleased by her style. 

However, can we sympathize with both parties? The grown-up world is complicated. We struggle even to greet a stranger this time of year. You see, in addition to the holidays, we have learned there are conflicting worldviews. We have learned that the holders of these worldviews are frequently hostile to holders of other worldviews. As Christians, we know that in this world we will have trouble, but that Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33) 

How many times have we met Christians who not only go looking for trouble but also for a chance to be this type of “overcomer.” This customer was clearly frustrated; hopefully, her misstep is a cautionary tale to other Christians. Still, we can understand that navigating a bold allegiance to Christ in a world full of people we are called to love is…complicated.  

A Free Society Will Bring Confusion, and That’s a Good Thing

This year, I was told another story about a workplace DEI book club. The week’s topic was how not to talk about Christmas in the workplace. Contrast this with those who insist that we must speak about Christmas all the more because it’s our “first-amendment right.”  

Highlighted here is the deep complexity of the free market, the civil sphere, limited congress, public-policy-governing employers, confusion over the origin of rights, the Constitution, natural law, and the Creator.  

We confuse spheres of governance vs. mechanisms of enforcement and fail to consider the consequences of misunderstanding and misusing these. Additional elements include mechanisms of the free market, obligations of citizens, obligations of consumers, and labor providers in a free market. Each one of these components is an inescapably complicated layer that adds to the weight of responsibility. This makes our simple childhood memories much more precious and explains why grown adults prefer discovering a path back to childhood than navigating a way forward. 

While it seems that Christians’ primary conflict is with those outside the faith, this is evidently false. Is there an answer to all this madness? 

How to Navigate With Romans 14

Romans 14:5-9 gives us a 3-part navigation process.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

Part One: Be convinced. 

Convinced has nothing to do with opinion. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines convinced as persuaded in mind; satisfied with evidence; convicted. Being blessed with freedom, both civilly and economically, comes with responsibility. Embrace it, steward it, protect it, and afford it to others. Gather and wrestle through the evidence, and put the evidence on trial until you reach a satisfactory verdict. And then, when new evidence presents itself, rinse and repeat.

Part Two: Be gracious with others. 

They bear the same responsibility, and they also will give an account. We know the stakes are high, and the task is heavy; therefore, we should not complicate what is already sufficiently complicated. If anything, we should model the diligence, sobriety, and reverence we have for this responsibility and the ability to stay out of our neighbor’s figurative courtroom. 

 Part Three: Chill out, be thankful, and live and die for an audience of One. 

The whole passage can be summed up with a single parallel text, Micah 6:8. 

He has told you, O man, what is good;

     and what does the Lord require of you

 but to do justice, and to love kindness,

     and to walk humbly with your God?

So, to my friends near and far who may read this: happy holiday, and Merry Christmas.  

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations. She co-leads and teaches through an organization committed to raising citizenship IQ on U.S. founding documents. She and her husband homeschool their seven children on their small acreage, where they are enjoying their new adventures in homesteading.

the shadows of figurines of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the manger

Anticipation and Arrival: A Heartfelt Advent Reflection

By Sadie Aldaya

Hey there, fellow journeyers on the road of faith! As the air becomes crisper and the days grow shorter, our hearts collectively turn toward the season of Advent—a cherished time of preparation, anticipation, and joy. So, grab a cozy blanket, settle into your favorite chair, and let’s dive into the beauty of Advent and how we can prepare our hearts for the arrival of Christ.

Embracing the Anticipation

Advent is like the quiet hush before the grand symphony. It’s those moments of waiting in breathless anticipation, knowing that something extraordinary is about to unfold. As Christians, we’re not just marking off days on a calendar; we’re actively engaging in a sacred rhythm of expectation.

The Candle of Hope: A Beacon in the Darkness

The first candle of Advent flickers with the light of hope. It’s a reminder that, even in the darkest nights of our lives, the promise of Christ’s coming illuminates our path. This season invites us to pause, reflect, and anchor our hope in the enduring promise of a Savior who brings light to our world.

Preparing the Manger of Our Hearts

Just as Mary and Joseph prepared a humble manger for the birth of Jesus, Advent calls us to prepare the manger of our hearts. It’s a gentle nudge to clear away the clutter, the distractions, and the noise that often fills our lives. In this quiet space, we make room for the Christ-child, the ultimate gift of love.

Cultivating a Spirit of Repentance

As we prepare, let’s not forget the beauty of repentance—a turning of our hearts toward God. Advent is a season of reflection, a time to examine the corners of our souls and allow the transformative power of Christ’s love to bring renewal. In the words of John the Baptist, “Prepare the way for the Lord.”

The Gift of Waiting

In a world that rushes from one moment to the next, Advent invites us to embrace the sacred art of waiting. It’s not an idle anticipation but a purposeful, expectant waiting that stirs our souls and deepens our connection with the divine narrative unfolding in our lives.

Advent Traditions: A Tapestry of Faith

Whether lighting the Advent candles, reading Scripture, or engaging in acts of kindness, our traditions during this season weave a tapestry of faith. These simple yet profound traditions draw us closer to the heart of Christmas, creating moments of reverence and connection with the timeless narrative of Christ’s birth.

There are many Advent resources available to you. We’ve enjoyed Biola University’s Advent Devotions and Calendar over the years. Perhaps it will be useful to you in this season of heartfelt reflection.

Carrying the Light Beyond Advent

As Advent culminates in the celebration of Christ’s birth, let’s carry the light of this season into the year ahead. The hope, preparation, and waiting experienced during Advent are not confined to a few weeks in December but serve as a reminder to live with expectancy and the assurance that Christ is with us always.

A Journey of the Heart

As we journey through the days of Advent, let’s embark on a sacred pilgrimage of the heart. May the anticipation, the preparation, and the waiting be not just a seasonal observance but a transformative journey that draws us nearer to the essence of Christmas—the wondrous arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Also, read the blog, Advent: Preparing Our Hearts for the Coming of Christ.

Sadie Aldaya is the Research and Quality Assurance Specialist for the Special Projects and Policy Research Department, Classical Conversations Foundation. Sadie and her husband homeschooled for over 20 years. She served as a Classical Conversations field representative for 15 years, providing community and support for other homeschooling families. Sadie’s passions are to stop government encroachment in areas where they have no authority or jurisdiction and to see Christians return to a biblical Christ-centered worldview.

four candles lit in a dim room against a blurred out backdrop of a Christmas tree

Advent: Preparing Our Hearts for the Coming of Christ

By Jennifer Bright

As the Christmas season approaches and we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, our calendar quickly fills with events, activities, gatherings with family and friends, shopping, etc., all good things. Still, we can lose sight of the most essential thing in the busyness: focusing on Christ. He quietly fades into the background of our busy schedule.

What could we do differently this year to intentionally focus on Christ, to prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate His birth?

This month is a time of “advent” to slow down, remember, prepare, and spend moments in dedicated and intentional worship of our Savior, Jesus. We remember His birth on December 25 and prepare for His Second Coming, His Return. Advent is from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming; arrival.” The early Christians were expectantly looking forward to Jesus’ Second Coming, but today, many put the focus on remembering His first coming as a baby in a manger. His first “advent” is not the end of the story.

Two sisters in the Bible, Mary and Martha, in Luke 10:38-42, who both love Jesus, remind us not to become so distracted and overwhelmed with the good things that we miss the best thing, Christ Himself. Martha is like many of us as we prepare for Christmas. We attend many wonderful Christmas events and make memories with our families. We are busy rushing around checking off our to-do list. We have many things to do but leave ourselves physically exhausted and spiritually drained. Mary shows us a more excellent way by realigning, resting, and receiving the Living Word that transforms our souls. She sat with others to listen and learn from Jesus Himself.

“Focusing on the list might give us the Christmas we want, but so often at the expense of what we need. Unless we are intentional, all the shopping, decorating, wrapping, and attending can fill up our calendar but leave our soul empty.”

-Lisa Appello, When We Want a Mary Christmas in a Martha World

Year after year, I have been like Martha. All good things to plan and do, but neglecting the best, like Mary, worshiping and adoring our Savior and King. My challenge to myself and you this Advent season is to prepare our hearts for the arrival of our long-awaited Savior, to be like Mary and worship Him.

We can prepare our hearts for Jesus’s advent through: 

Pray for God’s wisdom about the activities, events, and gatherings we will participate in this season. Will it draw us closer to the Lord? Are they activities to fill our schedule or moments to fill our hearts in the worship of Jesus?

Set aside intentional time to worship, read Scripture, pray, listen to music, and sing songs that lead us to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ. We should not focus on a checklist to complete but should set aside time for true worship, as He has created us to worship Him in spirit and truth. (John 4:23). Also, to join other believers, worshiping and adoring our Savior at church and home. (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Keep our eyes, hearts, and minds on our hope in Christ as redeemed people bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 7:23) We are His children! We should be longing and looking for His Second Coming, awaiting His arrival, and preparing our hearts for that day.

This season, I will reorient myself to the best thing: worship through His word, prayer, and music that brings me to the throne of grace. I will invite others to do so as well. What about you? What will you do this Advent season to prepare your heart and home for Christ’s coming?

Let me leave you with lyrics from Bob Kauflin’s song, “In the First Light.” 

In the first light of a new day
No one knew He had arrived
Things continued as they had been
While a newborn softly cried.
But the heavens wrapped in wonder
Knew the meaning of His birth
In the weakness of a baby
They knew God had come to Earth.

As His mother held him closely,
It was hard to understand
That her baby not yet speaking
Was the Word of God to man.
He would tell them of His kingdom,
But their hearts would not believe
They would hate Him and in anger
They would nail Him to a tree.

But the sadness would be broken
As the song of life arose
And the Firstborn of creation
Would ascend and take his throne.
He had left it to redeem us,
But before His life began
He knew He’d come back not as a baby
But as The Lord of ev’ry man.

Hear the angels as they’re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again to Earth
When He comes again

Hear the angels as they’re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again to Earth
When He comes to rule the Earth!
When He comes back, When He comes back
To rule the Earth!

Here are some additional resources to help prepare your heart and home for Christ’s coming:

Jennifer Bright is the Communication Manager for Research and Quality Assurance for Classical Conversations. Jennifer’s passions are classical Christian education and discipling the next generation to live for Christ. She supports homeschool families by tutoring their students with the classical tools of learning. Jennifer and her husband began their homeschool journey almost 20 years ago in Russia while serving as missionaries, and currently, they reside in Covington, Louisiana.

Christmas man nativity scene installation on the theme of the birth of Jesus Christ, shadow and silhouette. Street decoration on eve of Xmas. Toned image with trend color of 2020 year Classic blue

2022 Advent Calendar

Looking for devotional resources for the Advent season? Check out Biola’s 2022 Advent Project for daily reflections upon the coming of Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Advent calendars come in all shapes and sizes but what they have in common is a daily rhythm of anticipatory reflection. Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts offers a FREE online Advent Project designed to help you pause each day to reflect on the beauty and meaning of the season. The 2022 Advent Project starts on the first day of Advent, November 26, 2022, and continues through January 7, 2023. Each day of the Advent Project features a Scripture passage, a devotion written by a member of the Biola community, a work of visual art, a poem, and a piece of music. Our prayer is that in the midst of the busy Christmas season, the Advent Project will help ground you in the unsurpassable beauty, mystery, and miracle of the Word made flesh. – Biola’s Advent Project 2022