“When the days grow shorter and shorter, when – in normal winter – the first snowflakes fall, then quietly and softly thoughts of Christmas begin to surface, and from the mere word a certain magic exudes that affects every heart. Even those of other faiths, or of no faith at all, to whom the story of the Child of Bethlehem has no meaning, prepare for the feast and even make plans to convey its joy here or there. Months and weeks in advance, there flows a warmth like a stream of love over the whole world. A festival of love and joy – that is the star which beckons all mankind in the first winter months.
For the Christian, and especially for the Catholic Christian, it is yet something else. Him the star leads to the manger with the little Child who brings peace to earth. In countless endearing pictures, artists have created the scene for our eyes; ancient legends, replete with all the magic of childhood, sing to us about it. Whoever lives along with the Church hears the ancient chants and feels the longing of the spirit in the Advent hymns; and whoever is familiar with the inexhaustible fount of sacred liturgy is daily confronted by the great prophet of the Incarnation with his powerful word of warning and promise:
Drop down dew from above and let the clouds rain
the Just One! The Lord is near! Let us adore Him!
Come, Lord, and do not delay! Jerusalem, rejoice
with great joy, for you Saviour comes to you!
From 17 to 24 December, the great O Antiphons to the Magnificat call out with ever greater longing and fervour their ‘Come, to set us free’. And with still more promise (on the last Advent Sunday), ‘Behold, all is fulfilled’; then, finally, ‘Today you shall know that the Lord is coming and tomorrow you shall see his splendour’.
Yes, on that evening when the lights on the tree are lit and the gifts are being exchanged, that unfulfilled longing is still there groping for another ray of Light until the bells for Midnight Mass ring out, and the miracle of that Holy Night is renewed upon altars bedecked with lights and flowers: ‘And the Word was made flesh’. Now the moment of blessed fulfilment has arrived. ”
(The Mystery of Christmas, Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), January 1931)