I went back and forth several times between the adjectives patient and prayerful to describe the preparation, but couldn’t settle on either. Really, because the preparation of Advent, regardless of whether it’s external (decorations, cookies) or internal (more prayers, confession, adoration) should be both patient and prayerful.
I use the word “patient” to describe the preparations of Advent because preparing for the King ought not to be rushed. Just as the ancient Jewish people, we do not know when He will be coming. On the one hand, this gives us time to prepare thoroughly, and keep ourselves prepared–we have the time. On the other hand, it is imperative (as we are told many, many times in the Bible) that we get ready and stay that way. Sustained preparedness is not possible without patience. Not only is there patience in waiting, there is also patience in learning how to prepare, and practicing it. This applies either externally or internally. For example, you shouldn’t rush putting up lights because you’ll either fall off the ladder, or they’ll look really terrible. Internal preparation requires some patience with yourself–recognizing that we are subject to the effects of sin, and that we will fail in our efforts to get and stay ready for Jesus’ second coming.
Internal prayerful preparation is pretty obvious–that’s where the hard work needs to be done with prayer. I suggest, however, that even external preparations ought to be a work of prayer. Think about it this way–the reason you put up decorations, or bake cookies (or other holiday foods), or whatever you do to get ready for Christmas at least starts to put you in the mindset and to think about the coming of Christ. At that moment, the thought of Christ’s birth and second coming, becomes an act of prayer.
For us, at least, we keep the external preparations during Advent to a bare minimum. Part of it is that growing up, my brothers and I were not allowed to talk about Christmas until after my Dad’s early-December birthday. We might get a tree before then (if there happened to be a convenient weekend prior to December 8), or put up the outside lights, but the tree would not go up, nor would we turn on the lights, until after his birthday. I’ve carried that over to my family, maybe amped up a little bit, too, to where I’ve done the tree decorating after Christmas eve (or midnight) mass (usually by design, even). We don’t sing Christmas carols in advent, mainly because there are so many Advent hymns to enjoy. I find that then, when I do start some of these preparations (like baking cookies, potica, or thinking about decorations), my thoughts are turned to enjoying them during the Christmas season, and the coming of Christ.
So, however you prepare during Advent, may it be patient and prayerful, so that you can celebrate Christ’s first coming in due season.