"Bethlehem, make ready. Ephrathah, prepare yourself!" "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son." The Nativity of our Lord has not yet come: we still await this great feast. Christ is not yet born.
It is true that we do not deny His historical birth, and we still proclaim in the Creed and in the Hymn to the Only-Begotten that the Son of God was made man. Yet we do not particularly celebrate this fact, this momentous event, for we are still awaiting. "The people who wait in darkness": this describes the Church at this time. All creation is waiting with Her, with us, though the great event has occurred. Despite this, we wait for the dawning of that day: Christ is not yet born.
This time of preparation, while it may vary in length, is present throughout the Church. In the East it is the Nativity Fast, and in the West it is Advent. It is a time of waiting and of penance before that great, great feast, the Nativity. As in Lent, the Great Fast, we await the death and Resurrection of Christ, in this time we await His Nativity. The Western Church recognizes this with her liturgy, for both times, Advent and Lent, share that liturgical color of purple, that time of dark waiting before the dawning of the glorious light. We await that marvelous feast of the Nativity. Christ is not yet born.
Today, so many small or great "feasts" abound before that holy day, so many "feasts" to celebrate "Santaclaustide." Yet once the long-awaited day of the Nativity comes, it seems the "feasts" peter out and we are left with merely dreary winter. Is not this a twisted reversal of the truth? For now we are in darkness, but then we shall be in light. Now we fast so that then we may feast. There is a time for everything, and now is the time for penance and waiting and fasting, but then shall be the time for joy and celebration and feasting. May Christmastide conquer Santaclaustide, at least in the lives of Christians. For let us remember the fact of our waiting. Christ is not yet born.
Though many start it on the 15th of December, the start of the Nativity Fast, according to tradition, is the 15th of November, giving forty days for penance and waiting, just as in Lent. Not only the East, but also the West, has this fast in tradition, for St. Francis of Assisi once decreed, among his brothers, the keeping of Philip's Fast. Yet even if we do not yet fast from food, should we not still fast from premature celebration? There is a time for fasting, and there is a time for feasting, and now we fast: Christ is not yet born.
Let us then keep this fast, whether in body or only soul, for a fast precedes every feast. When the Bridegroom is born, let us then keep the feast for days and days to come. Christ will be born: of that we can be certain. But equally certain should we be: Christ is not yet born.