This last week of Advent is a time of waiting – and that has its own pleasures: the sound of Daddy’s car on the drive, the key turning in the front door. Anticipation is a joy, and at Christmas the Eve is often better than the indulgence of the Day. Our preparation is for a guest. Life and human history is not just one thing after another. God broke in on human history two thousand years ago and nothing is the same since. The world is young though it may feel old. Christmas is a birthday. We survive on the bright spots, when things are special: light at the end of the tunnel. Advent is the tunnel, and it used to have its share of fasting and repentance, sharpening the contrast between anticipation and the Event.
In what sense does God arrive at Christmas? In Innsbruck they re-enact the arrival, putting a live baby and mother on a sleigh drawn through the lighted town. That is lovely, but imaginary. The real arrival is partly in our hearts, partly in our Mass. True, that happens more than once a year. But on this feast, as on a birthday, we celebrate that Bethlehem event which showed (as birthday presents show) that we are the children God wanted, that we matter to him.