When I hear the word "Anticipation" all I can hear is Carley Simon's voice singing her song and an enormous catchup bottle slowly pouring out its deep red contents. We live in a time when anticipation is not a happy word. Everything about American culture is instant. We need instant gratification, fast food, fast service, we are fast talkers, fast walkers and live for the day. Anticipation would suggest a delay in all of that. Anticipation would suggest putting my gratification aside for a while so that something even better might happen.
Here is where Ancient Christian tradition can help us. In the ancient Christian tradition, Christmas begins on Christmas Eve and goes for 12 days to the day of Epiphany (January 6). The season before that is not the "Christmas Season" nor even the "Holiday Season". Instead, the early Church developed a season they called Advent (Advent means coming or arrival and is used in reference to the coming of God's Son, Jesus at Christmas). Advent is the four Sunday's before Christmas day (beginning on November 30 this year). Advent was designed as a time to prepare for the great celebration on December 25. Christian homes were decorated slowly over time, the advent calendar was opened on a daily basis -- with a little sweet in anticipation of the great day coming. Advent wreaths were displayed and lit (this was a family event rather than a Christian worship event). We remembered the reasons for Jesus birth, he is our Hope, he brings Joy, he is the Prince of Peace and is the full expression of God's Love.
With all the hustle and bustle and the month (2 month?) long party that the "Holiday Season" has devolved into, why not go retro this year? Stop the madness, sit quietly at home with your family. Create and light an Advent wreath on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. Read the story of Jesus birth. On Christmas Eve (In the older tradition the day began on sunset not at sun rise), and throughout Christmas Day celebrate the greatest gift of all -- the birth of Jesus. But take your time getting there, walk through the month, and enjoy the full flavor of anticipation.