In my faith tradition (do I need to tell you? its Catholic) we celbrate the season of Advent prior to Christmas. Advent is a time where we wait for the coming of the Lord, and a lot of people interpret that to mean waiting for His birth, but the greater reality (ok, Liturgically season-wise we are waiting for Christmas) is that we are waiting for the second coming. Now, if there's one thing that the Gospel according to Matthew teaches us, its this:
"Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:32-37, NAB)
All of that is to say that none of us know the time when Jesus will return to us, so as I was saying, in our tradition we dedicate an entire liturgical season (4 Sundays) to preparing ourselves for Christ's coming.
This year, I'm finding it more difficult to not just jump right into Christmas though. I mean, I can justify it by saying that w/ youngest daughter's birth so close to Christmas, and this year celebrating her first birthday, we just have so much to look forward to. Or, I can talk about how I ordered really cute stockings for our family last year from Pottery Barn, they have our names embroidered on them, and I cannot wait to hang them by our chimney with care (it doesn't hurt to add that I got them for 50% off the day after Christmas!). Or, I could mention how with our failing economy and stores wanting to tempt us so much into SHOPPING that I've been hit by the bug and have found/thought of so many cute things for gifts and decor this year that I can hardly contain myself. All of these our true.
But I need to get my heart in the right place. I need to be excited for Jesus. I need to focus myself spiritually so that I can grow closer to Him and I need to work harder at teaching my girls about this important aspect of our faith. I love the liturgical aspect of our faith. Its so thought out, so planned, it always feels so right. It never feels like we had a pastor who just threw together a couple of random readings for the weekend and then got up and preached about whatever was getting his goat for the week. There's purpose to what we do, to how we pray, and its always directed towards something greater than ourselves. Participating in the liturgy (as little as I sometimes feel like I'm actually participating, more feeling like I'm just trying to keep my kiddos quiet enough so others can not be bothered) makes me a part of something GREATER. Which is such a Good thing.