Thursday, December 21, 2023

I'm not "ready for Christmas" yet (and I'm OK with that)

 “Are you ready for Christmas?”

If I was quicker on my feet, perhaps I’d be able to answer this question with some witty remark. Yet, I don’t come up with good one-liners on the spot, so when this question has been tossed my way recently, I’ve either given an offhanded comment like “sure, I guess?” or I’ve begun rambling about how our family doesn’t spend December in a frenzy of shopping and activities.

How do I put the gift of Advent into words? How can I express that I’m not ready for Christmas—but not for the reason that other people expect? How can I share my deep gratitude for this season that leads us into the desert as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?

The act of writing is an oasis where I can silently sift through my thoughts and make them coherent in some way. So, as I sit here in the respite between the winter Ember Days, I want to rest in this question for a moment. 

Am I ready for Christmas?

No, I’m not—and I’m okay with that.

I’m grateful that the Church offers a season of preparation in which we can intentionally focus on preparing our hearts and souls to encounter Christ in a renewed way at Christmas. And, even though Christmas is near, we still have a few days of Advent left. We can continue to immerse ourselves in the penitential desert of Advent and, like St. John the Baptist, await the coming of the Lord. We can pray the ancient O Antiphons. We can listen to the Gospel account of the Annunciation at the Sunday liturgy before the Church dives into the feast of Christmas.

There is still time to simply be in Advent; and this is a great gift.

I know that some people have already launched headlong into Christmas festivities. I know that some people will skip the Fourth Sunday of Advent liturgy and only attend Christmas Mass this weekend. I know that some people, for varying reasons, have already celebrated Christmas with extended family and friends. Yet, amidst all of this, the Church still lingers in this time of preparation; whether it is called Advent, the Nativity Fast, the “Season of Announcements,” or some other title.

There is still time for us to examine our lives, recognize our sins, and come to God for mercy and cleansing.

There is still time for us to offer sacrifices and prayers as we observe the brokenness in our lives and in the universal Church.

There is still time for God to transform us as we “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God” (Is 40:3).

There is still time in Advent.

How will we spend it?

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