“I am so excited about Christmas!”

“Why? Is there something specific you want this year?”

“No Mom – It’s just because of Jesus. I just love Jesus.”

I stood in my Kitchen and stared at my son. Do I share his excitement about Christmas?

Not really.

I am embarrassed to say I approach Christmas with a bit of dread. It is NOT my favorite season. As a mom with kids at home, Christmas means there is so much more to do. Kids are home from school. The schedule is discombobulated. My life seems out of balance. I strive to do more (baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, entertaining — oh my) and yet seem to have less time to do it.

My son’s words and the orientation of his heart are what I want this year. I want to be excited about Christmas – just because of Jesus.

Because I DO love Jesus! How can we all cultivate that excitement in our hearts and homes this Advent? I think most of us need a radical shift in focus.

Advent isn’t about lighting candles, decorating perfectly, party planning, or sending a glossy photo card. Like all of our special times in the church calendar, Advent is about living life differently. Seasons of preparation are supposed to shock our system. They help us to better enter into a truly joyful time. Advent is a more reverent time to prepare for a truly joyful time of Christmas.

Preparation in Advent doesn’t need to be extravagant, pretty, expensive, or complicated. It just needs to be intentional. God doesn’t need you to light your advent wreath each night. God doesn’t mind if your packages have perfect bows. God doesn’t care if your house is adorned with Christmas lights. What counts this season is what is in your heart, and how you show that to those around you. Intentions count and so does attitude. God knows what is in our hearts. We should be seeking a shift in our internal disposition, not a change in home decor.

I am not saying blow off Advent. Quite the opposite I think we need to strive for more — but strive for the right things done for the right reasons. Strive for simplicity in your life this Advent, rather than letting the season complicate things. You may do a little more, but you can also do a little less of the stuff that distracts you from preparing your heart for His coming.

The Advent wreath gives us a tangible lesson each week on how we can intentionally internally prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Each night during Advent, I encourage you to look into your heart and ask yourself these questions:

How have I brought Hope? How have I sought Peace? How have I spread Joy? How have I shown Love?

These simple questions each day can help us shift the focus away from the external duties towards the internal disposition. We don’t need to make it complicated. We need to make it intentional. Be aware of the God around you as you go about your day. Chat with the Lord throughout the day. Pray while you bake, wrap, or shop. Buy a meal for the guy on the street corner (instead of buying another stocking stuffer). Look for ways to bring hope, seek peace, spread joy, and show love.

Advent Wreath Blessing: (taken from USCCB website)

All make the Sign of the Cross as the leader says:

Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Response (R/.) Who made heaven and earth.

Then the Scripture, Isaiah 9: (lines 1-2 and 5-6) or Isaiah 63 (lines 16-17 & 19) or Isaiah 64 (lines 2-7) is read:

Reader: The word of the Lord.

R/. Thanks be to God.

With hands joined, the leader says:

Lord our God,

we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:

he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,

he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,

he is the Savior of every nation.

Lord God,

let your blessing come upon us

as we light the candles of this wreath.

May the wreath and its light

be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.

May he come quickly and not delay.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R/. Amen.

The blessing may conclude with a verse from

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

O come, desire of nations, bind

in one the hearts of humankind;

bid ev’ry sad division cease

and be thyself our Prince of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

shall come to thee, O Israel.