December begins and the world is in a frenzy with Christmas preparations and celebrations. Anticipation for the coming year - all those resolutions and hope for a better life - grow as the month progresses. It becomes easy to fall into the distractions and become side-tracked in the bustle, which can bring on stress and anxiety.
There is a better, quieter and simpler way to focus on December which can give us much comfort and consolation. I love the fact that within the Church year, each month has a dedication to help us deepen our understanding about the Faith to nourish our spiritual life and infuse our souls with peace and joy. Allowing ourselves to tap into these resources for even a few minutes a day can put us in tune with the real reason for the anticipated celebration of Christmas and the Christmas season.
Who does not love a baby - especially when the Baby is the Infant Jesus? The Church begins Her Liturgical Year in December, which is dedicated to the Divine Infancy. The Advent Season begins and ends in December, and is all about preparation for the coming of the Savior. Just as we need to prepare for the birth of our own children with baby showers and the family excitement of the new arrival grows, so do we need to spiritually prepare for the birth of Christ in this wonderful season.
Those who are blessed to be able to attend Holy Mass on a daily basis are invited to feel the holy hope of the coming Messiah, Who will break the bondage of sin and offer us eternal life. The liturgy is filled with Old Testament verses associated with the coming Redeemer through the Psalms and readings taken from Isaias - the prophet of the Incarnation.
Mingled with the hope and joy, Advent is also a time of penance. Again the liturgy reminds us through St. Paul's epistles and the words of St. John the Baptist to "make straight the way of the Lord." While not as demanding as the penitential season of Lent, Advent does invite us to reflect on those things that make the Lord's path to our hearts less winding and more straight. The season encourages us remove from our hearts and minds those weaknesses and habits that keep us from feeling God's presence in our daily life.
So what can we do make this spiritual preparation when daily Mass is not available? The Church in Her Wisdom has placed before us in December's dedication to the Divine Infancy many activities to ready us for Christmas which I have discussed in this article. Delving deeper into the month, The Church calls us to honor Our Redeemer's Mother, celebrating her Immaculate Conception on December 8. Any novenas dedicated to Our Lady and her Maternity as well as those dedicated to Our Lord and His Infancy are entirely appropriate for the season as well. A nice connection to three novenas can be found here - The Novena to the Infant of Prague, The St. Andrew Novena and the Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe (especially as she is the intercessor of the unborn).
For a fuller discussion on the Infancy and Childhood of Jesus as well as links to other small devotions that can be done daily, please click here.
The point is that in order to experience the coming Christmas Season, which begins on December 25, with the most peace and joy in our hearts, we need to make time beforehand to move our hearts and minds from the clutter of daily life. These activities and prayers take very little time during the course of our day. Many can be added to our daily prayers. Through them, our understanding of the miracle that occurred so many centuries ago in a stable in Bethlehem is broadened, our knowledge increased, and our love for the things Unseen intensified.