Memories and Remembering: How Advent Gets it Right | Guest Post by Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall | Guest Post | Advent | Christine M. Chappell

♥ Hey friends! I’m taking the rest of the year off from writing original posts, but amazing things are still coming for you! My 2016 guest post series continues TODAY with writer/blogger Glenna Marshall!


It was supposed to be a magical night, one made of sugary memories my kids will draw from when they are grown and parenting their own children. That morning I had dragged out all the Christmas decor and spent the majority of the day getting everything done except for the tree. It took all day—not because I have so much Christmas decor but because I have a 16 month old son. While I wound up lights with garland, he climbed on top of boxes and crates of ornaments. Before I knew it, the Christmas star was in two pieces in his little hands. Decorating with a toddler underfoot was a sanctifying experience.

I felt a little frazzled by evening, but being determined to make this a night to remember for my family, I turned on some Christmas music, made hot cocoa, and opened the boxes of ornaments for our annual night of tree decorating. My 8-year-old had been looking forward to this night for weeks. I felt I had set the stage for perfection.

Three of the four strands of twinkle lights for the tree were dead. The baby grabbed every fragile ornament he could while we shrieked and pried his little hands off of our keepsakes. The 8-year-old moped on the couch after placing exactly two ornaments on the tree. The baby climbed on top of every piece of furniture and whined incessantly when we pulled him down. The tree took two hours to finish, and that includes allowing the glue to dry on the now-broken Christmas star. The husband was finicky about the light-to-tree ratio. Everyone lost interest in the decorating process after about thirty minutes as I had perfectly predicted they would when I sulkily decorated the entire house by myself all day long.

I snapped and crabbed at everyone for ruining my perfect stage for memory making; we were all grumpy and out of sorts by the time it was over.

I put the kids to bed at 7:59 and tried to enjoy the glow of the newly decorated Christmas tree, but the floor was so crunchy from pine needles that dragging out the vacuum became necessary. (I thought the benefit of artificial trees was the absence of needle loss. Apparently not.)

We had a tough holiday season last year for various reasons, and I really wanted to celebrate the fact that nothing difficult was marring our holiday joy this year. But between the chaos and the bad attitudes, the night was kind of a downer. I went to bed unsatisfied, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

My childhood memories of Christmas hold all the glow and wonder that I want for my kids now. But I know there were nights like the one we had around the tree. I know my parents dealt with crabby kids and holidays that didn’t go as planned. However, they did a pretty good job of making sure that the things we remembered were the things that mattered.

I only remember a few of the gifts I received growing up, but I can sink down into the Christmases of my childhood with one anchoring memory: Advent.

In the 80’s and 90’s, celebrating Advent wasn’t the going thing like it is among Christian families these days. It seemed to be something of a lost concept for a few generations, and strangely, my parents celebrated it when no one else we knew did. No matter the frenzied schedule or the bad attitudes that tend to crop up during pressurized, holiday events, they made it a priority to focus on the birth of Christ in the simple act of lighting candles and reading Scripture. The calming ritual forced us to quiet our hearts and think about Jesus. And that is the sacred space that Christmas occupies in my mind today.

I can’t say for sure what my kids will remember the most from their childhoods, but I don’t want them to remember my short fuse during our tree decorating or my snippy responses to their lack of enthusiasm about our traditions. I’ve been holding them to a holiday standard that’s a little bit ridiculous. I can’t force them to have perfect Christmas memories; nor can I pick and choose what they will remember.

But I can show them how to be gracious when plans go awry, how to be kind when kindness feels impossible, how to find joy when chaos abounds.

Focusing on the coming of Jesus during Christmas is the anchor we all need. His birth was a long awaited answer to generations of yearning for salvation. On this side of the redemption story, I have the answer to dissatisfied hearts and the cure for brokenness. Rather than put pressure on my kids to be perfectly grateful little angels while we decorate our home to look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, I should extend grace to them that neither they nor I deserve because the baby in the manger would grow up, die, and cover all our selfish, bad attitudes with blood and grace.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, prince of Peace.” {Isaiah 6:9}

Because of Jesus’ coming, there is hope for the brokenness of the hearts in my home, my own heart most definitely included. What I’m learning this Christmas is that our habits and traditions need to be less about setting a stage for perfect memories and more about illustrating why the birth of Christ is exactly what our hearts need.

On these cold December evenings we put on our Christmas jammies, light some candles, and walk through the never-old tale of Jesus’ coming. We sing and pray, and in settling our thoughts on Jesus, we are shifting our gaze away from ourselves. He is the main character of this story, and when we let His story saturate our hearts, we find rest in both looking back and looking forward. This, I hope, is what my children will hold dear when they are grown and decorating trees while disciplining their own kids in a house that’s full of Christmas chaos. The things we do with our kids will be the catalysts for settling their hearts and hopes on Christ. If I have to choose, I’d much rather them remember Jesus over a picturesque image of tree trimming.

What I’m reminding myself these days is this: Don’t get tied up in the traditions themselves. Let your traditions and memory-making endeavors be servants for anchoring the hearts of your home to the Savior who came and will come again. He is the One we look back to remember and the One we look forward to with longing.

“She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” {Matthew 1:21}

Glenna Marshall | Guest Post | Christine M. Chappell | About Glenna

Glenna is a pastor’s wife, adoptive mom, infertility veteran, musician, and writer. She writes to connect life’s circumstances to the truths found in the Word of God. You can read more of Glenna’s writing by visiting her blog at, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.