Reclaiming Advent

Beautiful mature mother and her adult daughter are talking, smiling, walking together outdoor in winter city street. Bonding, different generationsconnect, family concept.


Thirteen years ago, I stood in the toy aisle of Target considering what to buy our 6-month-old daughter for Christmas. As a new parent, I wanted to offer her the most magical holiday (which I later discovered included playing with boxes and wrapping paper).

I was caught in the whirlwind of the Christmas hustle. I felt overwhelmed with the options, overwhelmed with the endless possibilities of finding the perfect gift.

I thought there must be a better way.

There is.

Shifting Focus

Our church went through a Bible Study that took a fresh look at reclaiming Advent. The title of the teaching series was “Christmas is Not Your Birthday.” It called us to refocus our attention and resist the retail circus.

It's not easy. The circus is loud, exciting, and distracting, especially in our American culture where we are expected to purchase presents, make travel plans, decorate, and bake.

We were left with one important question. During the Advent season, how can we point our children’s hearts toward God by participating in holy and sacred habits?

The answer was to look to the Magi, those noble pilgrims ‘from the East’ who followed a miraculous guiding star to Bethlehem, where they paid homage to Jesus as the king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-12).

The Magi worshiped. Sure, they brought the necessary travel essentials and a gift, but their goal was to seek, find, and worship. The three gifts from the Magi were intentional: gold, (representing kingship on earth), frankincense ( indicating priesthood), and myrrh (for a prophet). This was an act of awe-inspired worship, not excessive consumerism. The generous gifts of the Magi foreshadowed all that Jesus would become.

If we had written the story of the Messiah coming into the world, we might’ve pictured Jesus entering as a king with great pomp and splendor. Gifts would rain down upon him from the wealthy and religious. On the contrary, Jesus came as a baby and was born in a lowly and unexpected place, greeted by humble shepherds and the Magi.

Looking to this, we refined, reduced, and refocused our holiday season. We put parameters around our gift-giving. Our children each receive three gifts. And if you ask our children why they receive three gifts for Christmas, their response is simple: “If it’s good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.”

Could setting limits create space for more joy and peace among your family this holiday season? This may seem like a big jump or a hard precedent to set, but this is not intended to be a legalistic practice.

In our family, it’s three gifts, but I encourage you to spend time seeking the Lord asking Him what limits would be best for your family. Ultimately, what practices will help your family set their eyes on the true gift of Jesus?


Brian Ebel

Brian began his career in business and finance before hearing, and heeding, the call to ministry. He and his wife, Mandy, are Michigan natives who moved to Kentucky in 2002. They and their children, Sarah Margaret and Luke, have been in Lexington since 2019. A fan of golfing, fishing, and pizza—not always in that order—Brian enjoys spending time in Florida and Alabama, and he hopes someday to learn to fly a plane.