Advent is the time of preparation before Christmas - or rather, the time of preparation before the celebration of the Incarnation of God. Christmas, the coming of the Messiah, is the event for which the entire Jewish world sighed and prayed. For four short weeks we Christians recall their anxious waiting. In the readings at Mass, we express our own longing for the return of the Messiah and seek to prepare ourselves for that final coming.
But how to prepare? There are different approaches to Advent, as you may know. Some people believe it is a time of joyful "anticipation." Others hold the philosophy, "As long as the priest's wearing violet, I'm doing penance."
Members of both groups will find a wealth of wonderful ideas for enriching their celebration of Advent in Catholic and Loving It: Traditions For A New Generation. Written by a two recent graduates of the University of Notre Dame, this book is designed to help young Catholics reclaim their heritage and learn many of the beautiful practices and prayers which were an everyday part of Catholic life in generations past.
As for myself, I guess I'd claim membership in the more penitential group, but I'm not sure how much of that is my true inclination and how much is in reaction to a very anti-Advent culture. Each year at this time I have the opportunity to talk to a group of parents at our parish and beyond about fully celebrating Advent and saving Christmas for its own time, and quite often we will have the opportunity to share family-tested ideas to promote the celebration of Advent. If any kindred spirits would be interested in sharing ideas, I'd love to open the conversation here.
Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of our great King, that we may be ready to welcome him; he is coming and will not delay. Office of Readings, 1st Sunday of Advent