I like to think of the cycle as more of a spiral, rather than a circle. Each time you go around in a spiral you go to a deeper level, and so, this year as we prepare for Jesus’ Incarnation, will we come to know him more deeply and experience his love more profoundly, and live as his disciples more fervently?

Jesus came so that we could experience the mystery of God in human terms. Since we are limited, we just don’t get a full understanding of who God is in one turn around the cycle. We must go back again and again, each time more deeply, each time opening our hearts more fully, each time being transformed in yet another way by the awesome love of our God who sent his Son to dwell among us so that we could be saved from sin and death.

Just as you celebrate your son’s birthday each year, and love him more fully as you cherish the preciousness of your life together, so too the fullness of our relationship with Jesus expands and deepens each time we experience the cycle of his life and teachings, and apply them to our daily lives.

Advent is a three-layered season of expectation: we remember Jesus’ historical birth more than 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, we strive to open a pathway for Jesus to be born in our families today, and we look ahead to the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Jesus’ second coming.

While the world is busy shopping, hanging lights and baking cookies, Advent enfolds the church in quiet, confident prayer and expectation. Day by day throughout the four weeks, the light of Christ increases, piercing the darkness of our world. With each additional Advent candle that is lit, the brightness of our loving acts and our “being Christ” for one another transforms the world.

Each small kindness, the patience with one another you need to get through some of these overly full days, and sharing the blessings of your family with those less fortunate: these are the ways your family experiences the incarnation of Jesus right here, right now. Each year we live into the realization of Jesus present in our homes, our parishes, our communities and our world. Each year we experience another aspect, another nuance, another glimpse into the mystery of a God who loves us with such a tender love, like Mary loving her newborn baby.

Again and again, deeper and deeper is how the church prepares for Emmanuel, God with us. As a family, open your hearts to the Word of God coming to dwell with you in your home, your domestic church. And come this February, be ready for your son’s question: “Why are we having Lent again this year?”

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. A married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats, and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke,” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)