We have entered the longest four weeks of the year. By which I mean the weeks before Christmas, when kids large and small know their presents are coming, might even be in the house already, but they can’t have them yet. This year it’s even more obvious, what with nearly everything, from gifts to decorations, being delivered. In previous years, we could sneak out and shop, and hide the presents before the kids ever knew we bought them. When they were little, I would do the black Friday thing, not to trample people for a cheap TV but to get the toys they wanted and have them squirreled away in the basement before anyone woke up. As the bigger kids got older and their lists had more technology and fewer toys, that didn’t always work so well. Besides, I got older and more tired and the idea of getting out of the house at 4 a.m. didn’t appeal quite so much. Still, a lunch hour shopping trip here, a side trip while running errands there, getting stocking stuffers while stocking up on cleaning supplies at Target … it wasn’t too difficult to get most of what we needed without anyone really noticing. Or maybe they just turned a polite blind eye. This year, that’s kind of impossible. The FedEx driver dropped off six packages at once the day after Thanksgiving, packages that included a practical family gift (we often wrap things like socks and towels for Christmas) as well as items for every member of the household. Yes, including me. Even though I know Tony’s gift for me arrived, and even though I know what it is (the box was a dead giveaway), he was very clear that I would have to wait until Christmas to open it and put it together. That’s fine. I’ve always been a wait-’til-Christmas kind of person, even when I know what gifts are under the tree. That’s the point of a Christmas gift — you wait and see what you got. Maybe the focus on gifts is unseemly. Maybe we would all be better off remembering “Jesus is the reason for the season,” as the buttons say. That is why we used to make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve, and why we explained to the kids that Christmas is a birthday where we all get gifts, gifts that are meant to remind us of the ultimate gift of the Incarnation. Advent is a season to prepare for that ultimate gift, and it’s also the time when we shop and make gifts for one another, decorate our homes and plan festive meals. That’s how you get ready for something you’re looking forward to, right? Aren’t we supposed to be looking forward to the arrival of the Christ Child, the baby who changed everything? So we’ll light the Advent wreath and pray, and wrap presents and put still more lights on the house. And come Christmas day, when I have the new table for my jigsaw puzzles put together, I’ll take time to reflect on the glory of the gift.