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Father Muench Says...

Find time for Advent this Christmas season

Dec. 5, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Advent can be a rather confusing spiritual season for us, Catholics, to navigate. Advent is these four weeks before Christmas. The church has made this a special time of prayer and fasting as a time of preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the celebration of Christmas.

At the same time, this is also a time filled with all sorts of Christmas stuff – Christmas trees to be decorated, lights to decorate the outside of the home. There are Christmas cards to write, shopping to be done. There are Christmas pageants and Christmas parties to attend. Personally, I love them all, especially the Christmas cards. I love to receive Christmas cards. It is so good to hear from friends all over the country, especially the ones I don’t see often.

Our days are filled with Christmas stuff, but when we go to Church, it is Advent. No Christmas carols, no Christmas decorations. Purple is the color of the season. There is special music for Advent. We all know, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” So, when we attend Mass or spend time in church for private prayer, we leave Christmas outside. Our time of prayer becomes that spiritual time of Advent, as we again open our hearts as a preparation for another celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

St. John the Baptist is our spiritual guide and patron saint for Advent. John the Baptist realized quickly what his vocation in life was to be. God make it very clear to John that he was the one who would transform this world by announcing the coming of Jesus as our Messiah. John became an enthusiastic preacher; his gift was to announce Jesus to people. The Gospel tells us that large crowds came to listen to him, even the religious leaders came from Jerusalem to hear him.

John preached a forgiveness of sin, and he urged the people to be ready to admit their sinfulness. To remember their dedication to live a better life, John asked them to enter the River Jordan with him and be baptized – a baptism of repentance. They would not forget that moment, and they would realize that they were being led to Jesus.

John baptized Jesus, designating him as the one who was to come. St. John the Baptist is the one who prepares us to be good disciples now by challenging us. St. John urges us to again make Jesus a true part of our lives. St. John challenges us to transform each day of our lives, and to reach out to those in need.

There is a danger as we come again to another Advent. There are many who may say, “I’ve been here before; I’ve done many Advent programs. I must be well-prepared for Jesus.” However, this may not be true. There are many distractions and temptations that could take us away from Jesus. Our question must be: how good is my relationship with Jesus? Could it be possible that I need some time with St. John the Baptist to find the love and peace and presence of Jesus in my life, to make Jesus more alive in my heart.

SI urge you amidst the Christmas cards and decorations to find some precious time for Advent. Today, our guide, St. John the Baptist points us to the celebration of the Mass. The best opportunity for us to enliven our relationship with Jesus is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, both on Sunday and during the week.

I often write about the Mass, I know. I find each time I join with a congregation or with even one other person to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, I discover a new and better relationship with my God. Every Mass brings me closer to Jesus.

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