Originally published on CatholicMom.com on November 27, 2009.

It’s not easy to admit, here in this highly Catholic space, to people who may or may not "really" know me, that just the other day, the phrase "I hate Christmas!" came out of my mouth.

It was by way of explanation to a dear sister-in-law who was waxing romantic about my piles of wrapping paper, wrapping paper that I should have put somewhere else, but which I just never have.  She was smiling and starting to feel warm and fuzzy when something compelled me to say it.

I knew I shouldn’t have said it about two seconds after it was out of my mouth.  We were starting to have a "moment," one that could become a memory, and I stepped on it and squashed it.

As I’ve thought about it, and wondered if apologizing for it would even make a difference, I’ve realized something about myself.

I don’t hate Christmas.

I hate the Christmas-izing of Advent.

Without the cushion of Advent, Christmas becomes one long to-do list for me.  There are gifts to buy, decorations to put up, greetings to send.  The house needs cleaned (to make room for the extra stuff), the kids need primed (that it’s not just about gifts), the dog needs trained (not to eat the extra stuff).

Either I have lost sight of what Christmas really is or I have neglected to properly appreciate Advent.

This year, I’m ringing in Advent with a different approach.  My Christmas shopping will be done, in part because of a stringent savings plan that meant I had to be frugal in ways I’ve never had to before.  My decorating will wait until Sunday before Christmas, when some close friends come over, with all their innocent love of the season, to insert joy and a new tradition into the decking of our old farmhouse.

But, most importantly, I’ll continue a practice I started last year, one of finding the silence of the season.  In the midst of the noise all around me – from the carols blaring everywhere to the communications swirling around my mailbox – I’m going to do something – give something up or do something extra, I don’t know – that will prepare my heart for my Savior.  Call it a gift for the Birthday Boy, one that will seep into every part of my life and leave me embracing Christmas with nothing short of love.

Copyright 2010 Sarah Reinhard