Christmas is a time of traditions. Even people who eschew traditional religious practices engage in holiday rituals. In many ways, Advent is a time not so much for the preparation of Jesus’ coming, but of holiday rituals leading up the main event on December 25th – a time of preparation for family rituals.
The church has its rituals. Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus’ birth and birthday, Jesus coming into our hearts, and Jesus’ second coming. We light an Advent candle for each week leading up to Christmas. The Christ candle in the middle of the Advent Wreath is then lit on December 25th and continues to be lit for the twelve days of Christmas.
Houses are decorated during Advent (and some before Advent). The church is decorated for the birthday celebrations beginning on December 24th. Our family Christmas Eve service begins at 4 PM. The sun will still be up, but it is close to the eve. With the sun low and sinking below the horizon it looks like evening.
The Christian Church followed a Jewish tradition of observing the new day at sunset. So, Christmas Day begins when the sun sets on December 24th. And it is then Christmas.
Christmas, Christ Mass – is the day that God comes to live among us. This was and is a glorious and stupendous gift. Why would God choose to be self-limiting to be with us? Because of love. God’s love is so great that God would deign take on human form. If we were to imagine the most debased and humiliating thing we could ever do, it would pale in comparison to the incarnation – Jesus’ birth.