The lights are up around campus, garlands are strung around lamp posts, Christmas trees are in the dorms, and Christmas music is playing in the caf. Everyone is getting pumped for Christmas and can barely wait. To the average eye, nothing could be better than this. After all, Christmas season is "the most wonderful time of the year."
However, I want to challenge you to rethink the way you are preparing for Christmas.
In a country where capitalism has taken over, we can't think of a time when Christmas music and decorations did not pop up in the stores the moment after Thanksgiving, maybe even Halloween. But hey, taking part in the Christmas season after Thanksgiving doesn't seem harmful. It just means more time to celebrate Christmas! However, our culture certainly did not used to be like this. In fact, Christmas used to be seen predominantly as the spiritual season it is. . . not two months of Christmas albums by our favorite pop celebrities, Christmas trees, and hundreds of presents that ends the day after December 25th.
As Catholics, I believe we need to shift our perspective in this time leading up to Christmas. The Church is not celebrating the Christmas season and neither should you. Here is why:
First reason: Advent. Yes, I know that you know what Advent means and what it entails. But I'm going to explain again anyway. It is a time of preparation and anticipation. A time of fasting and prayer; a time of breathless silence, awaiting the moment our Redeemer enters the world. The greatest gift we can give to Christ this Christmas is ourselves, by strengthening our detachment to worldly things as well as our spiritual lives through such actions as fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. So are you ready? This time isn't and shouldn't be a time of rejoicing and celebration with cookies, music, and presents, but there does come a great joy out of knowing we are awaiting the birth of our dearest Savior. I'd suggest we all reflect on this verse in Matthew 25:13: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
If Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, why do we celebrate it a month in advance? A mother does not celebrate her son's birth a month before he is born. Rather, she prepares for the oncoming labor and birth of her child. We do not celebrate the resurrection of Christ (Easter) a month in advance. Rather, the time leading up to it is a time of anticipation, of vigilant prayer and fasting, and of reflection and mourning. So why would we celebrate Christmas a month in advance? There really isn't a real reason besides that the stores can gain a greater profit and we get the excuse to listen to fun, pumped up holiday music for days on end while gorging on Christmas cookies for a greater amount of time.
Further, we get burned out before the actual first day of Christmas. The Christmas songs we love so much have lost that initial charm that comes with hearing them for the first time. The Christmas tree has already dried out and is a fire hazard, and you are probably planning on dumping it out the moment after the first day of Christmas. You can't fully enjoy the Christmas feasting because you never really fasted in the first place and have already eaten ten million cookies. And you've totally forgotten about spiritual preparation. Think about it. Christmas has lost its charm and beauty because we have not awaited in longing anticipation the celebration of Christ's birth. We've already indulged ourselves and filled ourselves with Christmas cheer. Christ is born into a world that has already celebrated His birth and is now burned out.
So you are probably thinking at this point that I am trying to suck all the fun out of your December. But no, I just propose we celebrate Christmas during the actual season of Christmas which lasts from Christmas Eve and ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, all the way into January. In that time, celebrate and enjoy all the Christmas music, hot chocolate, the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and presents you want! But please do not forget the real nature and attitude of Advent.