Living liturgically during the Christmas season
One of the reasons I love the liturgical calendar is because it’s a constant source of inspiration and collective prayer with the Church before God.
It’s a dynamic opportunity to engage with the living Word of God. We know that when the Word of God goes forth, it goes forth in power and grace, and it does not return to Him without fruit.
As a convert, transitioning from the hustle and bustle of Christmas in December to a time of quiet and introspection during Advent was jarring — it felt like a vacuum. This was a fact I was reminded of when a recent convert said to me that “Christmas seemed so somber to him now” and that he missed “the joy of Christmas as a Protestant.” I remember my first Advent as a Catholic as being a bit unsettling, and there was a nervousness to the quiet. I had stopped the commotion of my past life, but what was I supposed to fill the void with? It took time to understand how to live Advent and Christmas as two distinct seasons.
What is Advent, really?
In order to not be exhausted by the time December 24 comes around for the start of the liturgical season of Christmas, it requires some discipline to resist the festivities during the Advent season. In Advent, we prepare for the coming of Christ. While others are singing Christmas carols in early December, we try to remember the time before Christ was born.
Just as the Israelites awaited their Messiah, so too during Advent we wait for Christ to come, and for a whole season after we celebrate not only His arrival, but His remaining with us. An Advent that is filled with preparation with no fulfillment, that is filled with waiting and no one to come, is not only a practice in futility but also of despair. We are a people of hope only because we know in faith that our hope will be fulfilled.
How to Celebrate Christmas at Christmas
There are many traditions that we can do within the home with or without children.
For Advent, you can have an Advent wreath, lighting the candles each week. You can also decorate with greenery during this liturgical season; put up the Christmas tree but don’t adorn it yet. All of this prepares our houses and hearts for the joy of the coming of Jesus.
Then, beginning on Christmas Eve adorn the tree with lights and ornaments, playing the Christmas music we’ve awaited eagerly for a month to listen to. Despite the world around us telling us that the celebration is over, we continue remembering the glory of the gospel and the joy of the incarnation — we celebrate the fulfillment of our hope.
Just like in Lent, when we fast in preparation for the feasting of the Easter season, we are called to fast in Advent and to prepare for the coming of the King who not only comes but also remains, for He is truly Emmanuel, “God with us.” This is why we celebrate.
From antiquity, the faithful have attested that this celebration cannot be contained in one day with the Feast of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord. The joy of His coming and the fulfillment of His Word overflows this day into a week and then another six more!
This time of feasting is particularly emphasized during the Octave of Christmas, culminating with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on January 1, which incidentally, is a Holy Day of Obligation as well.
Join us for this series on the Octave of Christmas, wherein we will listen to the Word of the Lord and contemplate the mysteries of our faith, that we may consider how we can celebrate more deeply the Christmas season as Catholics.
- Feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26: Into Your Hands, O Lord
- Feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28: Holy Innocence
- Feast of the Holy Family, Dec. 30: The Obedience of Christ
- Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1: In the Arms of Mary