It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… except we’re supposed to spend this time looking a lot like the Holy Family, seeking to break into the world with joy and light by being fully present. So how do we reclaim this holy time of preparation from the red velvet glitter of the world? Celebrate Advent by plunging into the Rosary and discovering wonder of living out the Joyful Mysteries. These suggestions are just the beginnings.

For the Annunciation, start small. The Blessed Mother started small. She said, “Yes.” To God’s big plan, and let that plan grow inside of her taking all the time necessary. Start small in your own home. If your tree isn’t up yet, make it a point to set it up, and each day, have family members put ornaments on it, but only one each. Talk about when you got that ornament, where… share the stories that are part of what made the traditions of your Christmas, traditions. If your tree’s already up, then start the process with your Christmas cards… one card a night, so that again, you focus on the people you intend to give these cards to, rather than getting it done and out the door. 

Practice imitating the Visitation. Go knock on people’s door and when they open the door, sing three songs. Bring bells and luminaries or pumpkin bread or what have you, and just stay long enough to wish the people you love a Merry Christmas. Again, the goal is to be present, not to check people off the list, so if the caroling turns into a real visit, that’s a genuine present. Enjoy. Do the same with phone calls, again, one a day, like an Advent calendar, building up to Christmas.

The Incarnation requires only one thing, our presence. So go to Adoration, spend time in the presence of the one for whom the angels constantly sing, and who awed both the wise men and heartened the shepherds. It’s a simple way to help make sure that our hearts are open inns, waiting for the Christ Child and his whole family to enter.

Be present at the altar. Bring your children, your friends, your family, your colleagues. Bring your trials, your troubles, your illnesses and your weaknesses, bring all your hurts and surrender them to God. It’s not easy, and it may take many times for your soul to really release them, but when you do, you will know the fullness of God’s promise, you will see how Christ is the salvation of all.

Seek the Christ Child. You will find Him in His father’s house. Keep Christmas long after Dec. 25. Keep it all year long. Seek the Lord in the Temple, and in His words found in the Scriptures. If you seek, you will find, and if you find, you will discover the great joy of knowing God the father more deeply, by loving the Son more fully.

So when you feel yourself besieged by the relentless push to jump to Christmas, remember that Advent but a time for finding yourself a year older, and ever richer in grace, and poorer in spirit. Do the opposite of the world’s advice; when it says to rush, be still. When it says to buy, give. When it says to stress, pray. My favorite way to think of this time before Christmas is as an opportunity to be steeped in grace. Advent is a gift of blessed quiet peaceful waiting, in a world insisting we must do all things instantly, loudly and without rest. 

So to paraphrase Dickens, I would say we should consider Advent one of those things from which we derive good, though we may not profit from it in a worldly sense. Much good it will do us, much good it is doing for us, much grace and good it has done us — and thus we know, we are very blessed by God with this sacred time of Advent.