The season of Advent is all about anticipation.  It is a looking-towards, a longed-for event.  Children should not be the only ones who can hardly contain their excitement at Christmas.  We are celebrating what hundreds of years of God’s people could hardly dare to dream about, and the excitement building up to this blessed time should be representative of the long centuries of waiting that went before this miraculous Unveiling.  Unfortunately, in our culture, anticipation is a lost art.  We don’t feel like we should have to wait for anything, and, consequently, Christmas decorations go up in the stores in October and people feel disorganized and harried if their homes aren’t decked out to perfection by the first of December.  By the 26th, traditionally yet another holiday in the twelve days of Christmas, they are ready to be done with it all.  But in the ages so sentimentalized in our books and cards there was no such rush.  Fir trees were cut and hauled in from the woods on Christmas Eve, so fresh that it was safe to use real candles on them.  Greens and berries were brought in to garland over doorways and pictures, and delicious aromas from the kitchen created an environment of warmth and cheer in the days leading up to Christmas.  We can learn from this early simplicity to enjoy each and every act of preparation, to make them stepping-stones of anticipation. We can decide that what we don’t have time to enjoy we don’t have time to do.  Life is much easier for us in many ways than it was for our forbears, but simplicity has become much harder.  We must seek for it earnestly, and inquire of those who have found it, but our pains will be infinitely rewarded.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

 Thirteenth century
tr. J.M. Neale