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Advent is a season that brings back fond memories of childhood practices: lighting the Advent wreath each day at dinnertime, putting straws in a manger after performing an act of charity, making gifts for each family member, putting out shoes on St. Nicholas’ Eve to find them full of goodies in the morning, praying the Advent prayer “Hail and Blessed”...(found below)  Traditionally, Advent is a time, when like St. John the Baptist, we prepare a way for the Lord. We give ourselves the chance to see the presence of God to commune with Him, to discover His plan for us.

christmas1Each season of the Church year brings with it a special grace for us. Just as on holidays we often make time to visit with friends and relatives, God wants to visit us and give us the grace of the season? Each day of Advent spend some time in prayer before Our Lord in the Eucharist and together search for answers.

If Advent is just a time of consumerism, we have missed the boat. The greatest gift, the one and only gift of Christmas is Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus is the gift that God wants to give us this Advent. He is always willing to give, but it is up to us to unwrap the Father’s gift to behold His face. We can do this by using Advent to renew and deepen our relationship with God.

Advent is the time to step back and reflect on such questions as “What is my relationship with Jesus Christ?” How does this relationship color every aspect of my life?” "Am I just a follower of Jesus, or am I really His disciple?"  There is so much persecution of Christians going on in our world today, even in subtle ways. But if we were on trial simply for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

The third Sunday of Advent is sometimes called "Gaudete Sunday" from the first word of the entrance antiphon in Latin meaning "Rejoice"  Joy is a decision that can surprise us.  it often shows us in unexpected places and includes our ability to choose.  St. Paul gives us a recipe for joy in the second reading.  He says to rejoice always - it's not a suggestion, but rather a command.  Rejoice!  Not only when things are going well for me, but always.  Joy can be a command because it requires a conscious choice.  Granted, joy is not an easy choice.  It is much easier to give in to sadness and cynicism.  Often we focus on the one thing going badly when so many other things are going well.  But St. Paul does not only tell us to "rejoice always," he explains how we can do it: to pray the way of the Lord in our lives.  Advent is a good time to take a year-end inventory of our lives, examine our consciences, and make a good Confession with serious resolutions to do better.