By Kevin Alton
I have a vast preference for Advent over Christmas. I’m fine with the Christmas on the church calendar, but the popularly celebrated version of Christmas makes me a bit ill. I just think it takes all of the expectation, hope, and joy intended for Advent and wraps it up in selfishness.
As one way of countering this, my wife and I (finally) committed to a no-Santa decision as our first son was turning three. “My family will probably understand this better if we just tell them we’re converting to Judaism,” she said.
True enough. I think Grandma eventually forgave me; a couple of years ago she requested that as a present I write a Christmas story for her—I couldn’t have been more surprised. You can read the resulting story here.
In any case, Advent, since childhood, has always met me right where I am. When I was a kid, it obviously mostly meant it was only that many candles until Christmas. As an adult, it helps me shut out the noise of The Other Christmas, preparing my soul for the coming mystery of the Christ. This year is different, though.
This year is different because it’s my last as a church staff person.
I’ve been in youth ministry in various forms for over 20 years. My call to youth ministry is life-long, and I’m not letting that go. I’ve been blessed over the years with opportunities that developed gifts of writing, speaking, and teaching in and about age-level ministry. In January I’m following God’s call to do those things full-time.
It’s the most terrifying and blessed season of expectation ever.
There’s great hope in what we believe God desires for our family. Joy abundant in a relationship with a life-partner who loves, guides, and supports me in our shared journey. And there’s a desire to lay our lives open before a loving God, seeking to enter this next chapter with newfound purity of focus.
May Advent meet you right where you are this year. Christ has come!
Kevin Alton is a youth and family ministry writer, author, and speaker. He's the co-creator of the Wesleyan youth resource Youthworker Circuit, senior writer and editor for the Wesleyan youth ministry community Youthworker Movement, and executive editor of the independent source of news and commentary United Methodist Reporter. Kevin lives in the Georgia woods outside of Chattanooga, TN, with his wife Britta and their two sons, Grey and Penner. You can contact Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.