Advent is sometimes described as a time of preparation but the word preparation can often suggest a state where we are very active and in control and in many ways Advent should be the opposite of this, it should be a time of waiting for something that is beyond our control. The preparation of Advent involves repentance and an openess to joy and hope, but part of this is a recognition that we are waiting for an event whose nature and timing lies entirely in God's hands. Perhaps this is why Christmas hymns such as Silent Night or Little Town of Bethlehem start off with images of silence and stillness, the world holds its breath as we wait for a deliverance and salvation that we are powerless to achieve ourselves.
The first verse of Christina Rossetti's In the Bleak Mid Winter offers a beautiful winter's scene that is undoubtedly very English - but I wonder if the earth as hard as iron and the water like a stone is also a metaphor for the world paralysed and held in the grip of sin, a concept similar to that used by C.S. Lewis when he describes Narnia where it is always Winter and never Christmas. Isaiah writes, "Oh that you would tear down the heavens and descend". Advent is about a state of longing and looking, about being receptive. It is more about a preparedness that involves stillness or even passivity than a preparation involving hustle and bustle.
I am going to be very busy this Advent because there is a lot of preparation for Christmas left to do! I think will also have an Advent that will be very reflective. We are told to "Be still and know that I am God" and the preparation of Advent is to contemplate with a sense of awe a God who is infinitely huge, powerful, wise and in control before we see him tiny, naked and vulnerable in a manger.