As of Sunday, a new liturgical season is here. Advent, one of the two penitential seasons, has begun leading us closer to the holiday we’re all waiting for: Christmas. I think Advent is a tricky season because there are so many other things going on at the same time. The competing attentions of finishing semesters, Christmas preparations, and other winter preoccupations make this liturgical season a hard one to focus on. Lent, on the other hand, happens during a time of year that has little else to offer. It is a dreary time of year and we are not focusing on baking cookies and purchasing gifts because we don’t celebrate Easter with the same vigor as Christmas. Although fasting, almsgiving, and prayer can challenge us (and particularly test our self-control), there is a certain ease of focusing on the season of Lent because we are not being pulled in a thousand directions.
It requires a special focus and special attention to make Advent more important than material preparations for Christmas. I still struggle with trying to balance the quiet waiting and reflection that the season is made for with the tasks of making cookies, buying gifts, and getting ready to travel. But our hearts need this time to prepare. It is not Christmas yet. Christmas should (and does) carry with it a great joy–I’m not trying to minimize that. But, it has its own season. In fact, Christmas is not just one day, but twelve, and if we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth until the Christmas season, we won’t be so tempted to take down our Christmas trees on December 28th. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I want to downplay Christmas. In fact, I think that if we focus on Advent when it is Advent and Christmas when it is Christmas we will be able to celebrate Christmas so much more! By preparing our hearts and then celebrating for 12 days, we can truly rejoice in the great gift of Christ.
As Ben and I start our own family traditions, it has been challenging to match my actions to my words. I love everything to do with Christmas: the cookie baking, the decorating, the gift giving, the hot chocolate, the Christmas movies, and the general joy of the season. So, when we had to stay in Texas for Thanksgiving, I decided that we should put up our Christmas decorations to give our apartment a bit of winter cheer. I also wanted to start making Christmas cookies (and freezing them so we can take them to Christmas parties) and watch Christmas movies. It was weird pulling down the boxes because all my senses are telling me it’s not Christmas time yet (mostly because the high today is 80 degrees and I can’t wrap my head around December not being cold and snowy). But, beyond that, as we pulled out the ornaments, I started thinking about how our apartment could reflect the waiting that I want my heart to be doing in this season.
So, we set up an Advent tree instead of a Christmas tree. We decorated our tree with white lights (really the only lights we had) and only our purple ornaments (luckily my favorite color is purple and my mom had bought us a whole set of purple ball ornaments). It looks sparse, but that is a reminder that the real celebration is still to come. When Christmas arrives, we will add all the rest of our ornaments and ribbons and a topper. We also set up an Advent wreath using 3 purple IKEA candles and one white candle with a pink ribbon around it on a plate with a sprig of greenery (make one with what you have). The advent wreath sits on the middle of our kitchen table as a reminder of where we are in our journey towards Christmas. I refrained from putting up any more of our Christmas decor. For now, our home is in Advent, and like us, it is waiting for the birth of the King.