I'm a big fan of underdog movies: Rudy, Remember the Titans, Dodgeball...which is probably why Advent is my favorite season in the Church. Of all the liturgical holidays our Church celebrates, Christmas is the one that has been embraced most wholeheartedly by secular society. You can't go anywhere after Thanksgiving without hearing Christmas music, and some die-hard people even start celebrating the day after Halloween. The lights go up, the Christmas movie marathons start airing, and the season of Advent gets bulldozed by Jingle Bells and gingerbread cookies. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be a Scrooge. But shouldn't Advent feel different than Christmas?
According to the Church, the Christmas season starts on Christmas Eve (the Vigil) and lasts until the Epiphany or The Baptism of Jesus, depending on who you ask. Either way, Christmas is supposed to be the beginning of the celebration, not the end. For many years I felt as though Christmas had lost that magical feeling it held when I was a child. For a while I thought this was just a part of growing up and learning the truth about a certain man in a red suit. But last year I discovered that Christmas can still be full of wonder and joy, and the key is celebrating the season of Advent.
Advent is a season of preparation, much like Lent. The difference is, instead of preparing for the death of our Lord, we're preparing for His birth. Instead of being somber and sorrowful, Advent is a season of devout and expectant delight. Even though we're not being called into the desert, we are still being called to simplify, to renew. We're invited to journey with Mary through her pregnancy and prepare to receive her Son into our hearts. Advent is an opportunity to accompany Mary by making room for silence, by increasing our prayer, and by waiting to celebrate Christmas. As a friend of mine pointed out to me last year, pregnancy isn't all joyful anticipation- there are moments, especially near the due date, when a pregnant woman just wants to get the baby out of her body. In the moments when we just want Christmas to be here already, we have a beautiful opportunity to honor Mary and her swollen ankles by entering into the waiting with her.
As Advent quickly approaches, I want you to think about what it might look like to create a nursery in your heart for Jesus. This isn't followed by a link to a Buzzfeed quiz where you pick out your wall colors and crib and then get a Bible verse to read; rather, this is a genuine invitation to ask yourself: "How can I make my heart a more loving, welcoming home for Jesus when He arrives?" Maybe this looks like praying for someone you've been struggling to forgive, or making more frequent visits to Reconciliation, or being more patient with those around you. The more effort you put into making your heart a nursery for Jesus this Advent, the more joy there will be in receiving Him on Christmas morning. This year, I hope you rediscover the wonder and delight of Christmas by celebrating Advent to its fullest- swollen ankles and all.
Marissa Borah is the Assistant Youth Minister for middle and high school. She graduated with a degree in Rhetoric from Georgia College (go Bobcats!), where she was a star innertube water polo athlete. In her free time she enjoys swing dancing, eating ice cream, and watching Criminal Minds.