Our Holy Catholic Church has given us a season called Advent. A period of time to wait before celebrating the Incarnation.
But why bother? Our western society just runs head long into Christmas and it is not even here yet. We hear Christmas music everywhere, there are Christmas parties, galas, pageants, treats, trees and so forth. In fact, we truly celebrate Christmas in western society for a month before it comes and then we stop.
Yet, the Church admonishes us to wait. To slow down. To stop and prepare before we celebrate Christmas. Why?
In our lives, we run helter-skelter everywhere, constantly. We are constantly busy. This 'rushing' leads to impatience. We can 't handle a webpage taking 20 seconds to load up. We can't handle being in traffic. We want our food fast and now. We want to purchase things and not to wait more than two days for the post to deliver it. Can this be a healthy? We are driven to be impatient by the advent of so much fast technology.
And the Church says, "Wait."
But is Christmas worth waiting for? Why can't we celebrate before Christmas? 'Tis the season to be jolly, is it not?
The answer lies in the fact that some things are worth waiting for. Some things are sacred and it behooves us to prepare ourselves to receive them. Like a groom saving himself and waiting for his bride and celebrating their love on their wedding night - because marriage and the marriage bed is sacred and worth waiting for.
Christmas, Christ, is worth waiting for. The celebration of Christmas, of the magnificent event of God becoming man, is worth preparing for and calls for us to do so.
Let's look a bit closer:
God wants us to know Him and to understand more fully how much He loves us. So, He (the almighty, infinite, creator, God) becomes man in Mary's womb. This is an event that changes all of history. This is an event so great, so magnanimous that it is akin to myself becoming an ant to have the ants know that I love them. In fact, it's even crazier because God is infinite and we are finite.
So: How should we prepare during Advent?
Here are a few strategies we employ:
1. Abstain from Christmas music until Christmas. Music is such a wonderful way to express our joy, so we should keep it for when the Bridegroom arrives. Instead try Advent music. We enjoy the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles: Advent at Ephesus.
2. Bake Christmas treats and desserts and don't eat any until Christmas.
3. Go to confession.
4. Pray a Christmas novena.
5. Use a Jesse Tree.
6. In the last octave pray the 'O Antiphons' as a family. These are verses specifically chosen to stir in us a desire to meet Christ.
7. Give alms to the poor.
8. Have Sunday night dinners in complete darkness except for the candles lit on the Advent wreath.
9. An Advent wreath with the Christ candle to be lit on Christmas Eve.
10. Celebrate the saints that arrive during Advent like St. Nicholas, St. Lucy, the Immaculate Conception, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.