Almost as soon as we light the fourth candle on the Advent wreath, it seems Christmas Eve will be upon us. The big day is almost here.
We celebrate Christmas and its season in ways both secular and religious, and rightly so. The secular side focuses on gift-giving, sumptuous feasts, festive decoration, the delight of children, and the warm gathering of family and loved ones. At heart, these are good things, even if they are sometimes exploited for commercial gain.
On the religious side, Christmas is about Christ – his coming in the Incarnation as the child in the manger of Bethlehem, and his coming at the end of time. Advent calls us to prepare for and anticipate both comings. But how well do we and our loved ones remain mindful of that amid the exhausting shopping sprees, children and pets underfoot, meticulous attention to meal planning and festive decor, and all the other stresses that inevitable come along with the season?
You’ve established a rhythm of Advent prayer, perhaps incorporating elements like daily Mass, a novena, the Advent wreath, and the O Antiphons. Don’t let that momentum get lost once the great solemnity arrives! Often the secular observance tends to take over at Christmas, but here are some ways to help you and your family keep Christ at the center of things.
Have a silent night. Traditions vary, and some families exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. That’s bound to incite increased decibels if children are involved. But to the extent it is possible, try to keep Christmas Eve a solemn night of hushed tones and reflection on the meaning of the feast that is upon us. We commemorate something momentous and singular, and we might capture just a small glimpse of what the shepherds felt that night when they saw the brilliant star of Bethlehem.
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