The season of Advent is a season of expectation. It is a time when the whole Church prepares for the coming of Christ: first for the second coming of our universal king Jesus on the last day (from 1st Sunday of Advent up to December 16), and then for the first coming of Jesus (December 17-24) at Christmas. Liturgies, including their music, must therefore be carefully prepared so that the faithful may grow in this expectation.
The act of expectation requires us to grow particularly in the virtues of faith, hope and patience. In today’s world, when instantaneous gratification is expected, we have lost the ability to wait patiently. And things quickly obtained that have not been waited upon hold little value to us, and are too often too quickly dispose. And so instead of waiting for Christmas to come, we celebrate Christmas before it comes. And when it does come, we quickly dismiss it. So instead of celebrating Christmas after longing and preparing for it for four weeks, we now celebrate Christmas as shopping for gifts and going to pre-Christmas parties. The actual day and the coming of Jesus are dismissed, because we no longer spend much time pondering on it.
But the truth is, Christmas Day is only the beginning of the Christmas celebration, which is supposed to last until the second Sunday of January, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Yet if you ask most people, even Catholics, they don’t know what to do during these many days of Christmas. Why? Because the world around them is not doing anything. So our faith’s values become dependent on the secular activities around us, and not on biblical truths and solid faith-based family traditions.
So, coming back to your question. No, Advent liturgies should absolutely not have Christmas carols. We as Church must recreate the space where we can unlearn the ways of our disposable culture, and relearn the virtues of patience and hope. Christmas is a great season, where the ultimate gift of God Himself was given to us, and not only to us, but to become one of us. Let’s protect the season of Advent, and rediscover the great need to deny the distractions of consumerism and instantaneous fulfillment, and recommit ourselves to make room for Christ’s coming into our heart in a deeper way, so that when Christmas Day comes, we would be eager with anticipation, receiving Christ into our life and our family.