On the first day of Christmas I offer the major theme of the season of Advent: Expectation.
Personal life is lived in the spiritual space between the Now and the Not Yet. We are constantly challenged both to "be in the moment" and to look forward to a coming fulfillment.
The partiality of personal existence can be painful at times. The past is gone; the present is fleeting; the future is uncertain. Even when we are surrounded by people we love, others are always missing. Some are far away; some have died; some are estranged. We're conscious of imperfections, short-comings, needs and problems that we can't resolve on our own. We know we've sinned, and our guilt weighs on our consciences, blighting our enjoyment of life.
All of this might be unbearable without expectation: the promise of a time, an event, when partiality will be made whole.
The first chapters of Genesis, which describe the origins of human life already include the note of expectation: the protoevangelium, the first announcement that a Savior will come, the "offspring" of woman, who will "crush the head" of the serpent.
The entire Old Testament is full of prophesy, i.e. promise, hope, expectation. The Jews looked forward to becoming a great nation, to redemption from slavery, to a permanent home, to the coming of the Messiah.
Christians live in anticipation of the Second Coming and eternal life.
To live well, we need to cultivate hope in ourselves and in each other. Advent and Christmas are the great seasons of expectation. All their traditions and liturgies embody it.