The relationship between Advent and Christmas is clear cut in principle but not so in reality.
The manifestation of these seasons in reality has continued to plague a lot of ministers. Simply stated: Christmas decorations are up even before Advent commences.
This is, no doubt, a problem; it amounts to putting the cart before the horse. Traditionally, the first two weeks of Advent are meant to be penitential in nature (a time of personal reflection and prayer). The sober nature of these weeks helps us to focus on areas of our lives that could be obstacles to the manifestation of Jesus in our hearts at Christmas. The third week of Advent, beginning with Gaudate (Latin for rejoice) initiates the joy of the season, which those who are penitential enough would have begun to experience.
Traditionally, in many Christian denominations, that is when we should begin caroling and putting up Christmas decorations, to usher in the birth of Christ. Unfortunately, it has become the norm for Christmas decorations to appear and carols to be sung immediately after the Thanksgiving holidays.
What do we do with this new norm? How about beginning with the end in mind? We could see the Christmas decorations and songs as the end we hope to achieve through our Advent preparations.
With this approach, the Christmas spirit, already present, will challenge us to manifest Christmas more fully in hearts, through our relentless Advent preparations. Give a try next Advent.