The bareness . . . has a different bareness than Lent. It's a rich bareness, if you will . . .
That's it exactly, Therese. A rich bareness. Stepping back from complexity into simplicity for a time isn't necessarily self-mortification. It blesses us by amplifying the contrast between the paucity of what comes before and the abundance and glory of what comes next.
Some people I know refer to Christmas as the Feast of the Incarnation. We need to be reminded of its astounding significance. Creation was transformed that day, never to revert. In C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, another world is at stake as Satan tempts its newly created First Couple, who surprisingly resemble earthly humans. The hero, a visitor sent to help them vanquish the tempter, wonders about what appears to be a coincidence; he learns from them, however, that after God was incarnate on earth, there is no other form in which he ever would create beings intended to be in his own image. A corner has been turned. "Can my little world make that big a difference?", the hero wonders. The woman is gently puzzled. "I don't understand. On my world, 'corner' is not the name of a size."
As a devout Reformed friend of mine loves to say, the best words in the Bible are "But God!" There are many times in Scripture when things are bleak and without hope. But then comes the mighty phrase, "But God . . ." followed by the corner to be turned -- what God intends to do. Sometimes I think that the Incarnation must be heaven's biggest joke on hell. Leave glory behind, taking up squalor and pain? "Never!", the devil would say. There's no math in the world in which losing equals gaining, right? But God!
So, we wait. We wait in hope, knowing him in whom our hope is placed. We immerse ourselves in the "before" so we can fully enter into the "after".