Preparation. The watchword of this season. With its penitential undertones, the cry of St. John the Baptist is like a descant over all the hustle and bustle, the hurrying and scurrying, the sights, sounds, and smells of the season as the secular world's idea of "the most wonderful time of the year" bears its weight upon us. But it forgets "the reason for the season". While it began with the Annunciation nine months ago, the beginning of the end of the work of salvation draws nigh.
As we plunge into longer periods of darkness, climaxing with the winter solstice, we "rage against the dying of the light". The Advent wreath, with candles marking each Sunday and standing sentinel over the week, is the reminder we are not only remembering His first coming, but also are preparing for His second. The flames of each taper, in a nod to the Holy Spirit, are a tribute to the Light of the World, a Light which no darkness can overcome.
In this time where gift-giving is a welcome surprise, God has given to us the ultimate gifts in the Word made Flesh--eternal life, forgiveness of sins, reunification with the Father as adopted children.
For this we can sing "Joy To The World", but only after we sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful". And then we cannot be premature with these carols; their place is after midnight on December 25. The time now is for readiness, to find the balance between Martha and Mary. It is a time of waiting to be delivered, just like the Blessed Virgin.
"Prepare the way of the LORD."
The time for that is now.
Besides, anticipation makes for greater gladness when the task is done.