We will be doing those things in my house, just like we do every year, so I know that those preparations can be exciting. Unfortunately they can also feel depressing or burdensome. Worst of all, they can distract us from the real meaning of Christmas.
Many Churches celebrate Advent as an alternative to the frenzy that can consume us and our culture at this time of year. The word “Advent” means “Arrival.” During Advent, we prepare ourselves for the arrival of our Lord, which we celebrate on Christmas morning. We prepare ourselves to encounter God who comes to us as an infant in a poor family taking shelter in a manger. We prepare ourselves to meet the One who really is the reason for the season.
The preparation of Advent is quite different than the preparation that typically goes on all around us. During Advent, we ask ourselves the question, are we fully ready for God to come into our lives, to transform us and our world? For most of us, the honest answer is, “not really.” That is WHY we need to prepare ourselves.
HOW we prepare is trickier. But for most people, that preparation requires us to slow down even if we feel the pressure to do more and more. Advent preparation requires us to spend time on spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study even when we feel like we do not have any time to give to God. Advent preparation requires us to pause and to reflect on our lives. And as we become aware of those things in our lives that separate us from God, we are called to repent.
The Christmas season should be fun, of course. But we sometimes get so carried away with the fun that we lose sight of the deeper and more enduring joy that comes when we receive the glad tidings that our Savior is born. My prayer for us all, during these weeks of Advent, is that we can find time to focus on Jesus Christ and his will for us, no matter what else is happening in our lives. If we can do that, we will have a holy Advent. And then, having prepared ourselves, we will have a very merry Christmas!