Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”


The Holy Father presides at 1st Vespers of Advent in Saint Peter's (Picture copyright Fotografia Felici)

ADVENT PREPARATION can be compared to the activities we undertake the month before a baby is born into our family, with all the buying of baby clothes, repainting the nursery, making new curtains for the cot etc. In the same way, we must prepare the nursery of our souls, clean out all the dirt of accumulated and unrepented sins, by devout confession, for the coming of the Christ into our midst. we must deck out the cot of our hearts, to welcome Him, the baby who longs to reside within us, but who can only come and share our lives, join the family of our body and soul, if we have fully prepared for His birth.

People often say that the commercial side of Christmas is a distraction to a truly Christian approach to the real meaning of this great festival. This can be so, but only if we give in and allow it. In a strange, but really positive way, we can use all the present-buying and food-preparation to our own spiritual advantage. Let us think of it just like preparing for the arrival of a new baby in the family: when you are in the toy shop, or the department store, or working in the kitchen, remember who the baby is, and all these activities become an invitation to prayer, to meditation on the mystery of God's love for us. If you join your colleagues and friends for parties, remember that this is not the real party, but a preparation, and discretely maintain your abstinence. After all, what parents or family would open the champagne or eat the christening cake before the Baby is born?

If you have children, use this time to teach them in a practical way: do not put up the decorations until Christmas eve, and make sure the crib is set up, in the centre of your home, at least a week before, without the Holy Family, so that everyone can see that Jesus has not yet been born.

When at last Christmas comes, the day of great Joy, some people will say to you, "thank goodness it’s all over"; but you will smile to yourself, because you know that it has only just begun, and in your heart you feel the warm glow of a new born Baby.