Secularism, paganism, hedonism, materialism, agnosticism, atheism--- words that describe the modern drift of society!   That being the case, how easy it really is to forget the true meaning of Christmas!  Much more than a feast  characterized by buying and selling, eating and drinking,  carousing and sinning, it is the celebration of a Person, the greatest Person who ever came to earth, His Birthday and for our salvation. The reason for the season is the Person of JESUS CHRIST!

JESUS  means "Saviour", as the angel announced to Mary--- "He will save the people of their sins." The extent of His saving power is infinite.  He came to save us from sadness, sin, death, hopelessness, depression,  and from eternal loss of our immortal soul. He came in the flesh close to 2000 years ago, but lives on and will live on in the hearts of those who love Him until the end of times!   He said, "I will be with you until the end of the world!"

Therefore confronted with so many obstacles in the modern-pagan world, what can we do to prepare ourselves to celebrate His Birthday?    Some quick and clear advice!

1. SILENCE.  Cultivate silence in the depths of your heart.  God indeed longs to communicate with you, but can only communicate when, like Mary, you have a silent, contemplative and receptive heart. Hosea sums int up!  "I will take her to the desert and speak to her heart!" The desert means silence!  Remember the Christmas hymn, "Silent Night!"

2. PRAYER.  Advent/ Lent are key moments in the Liturgical year and must be characterized by more frequent and fervent prayer.   Prayer transforms our hearts!  Listen to what St Peter of Alcantara says to the transforming power of prayer.  "In mental prayer the soul is purified from its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, and strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident; temptation is conquered; sadness dispelled; the senses are renovated; the drooping powers revive; tepidity ceases; the rust of vices disappear...."  With these powerful and encouraging words of one of the saints that spiritually directed St. Teresa of Avila, prayer should be essential for our lives, especially as we prepare for the birth for Jesus!

3.  CONFESSION.   Clean the interior stable so that Jesus can be born!  The Child Jesus told St. Jerome that the gift He wanted most were the  sins   of St Jerome, so that he could purify them and renew his heart!

4. RECONCILIATION.  Make peace with your brothers and sisters that you have damaged due to pride and sin. Christmas  and peace go together! Pride and sin close the gates to the entrance of the Child Jesus into your heart.

5. CHARITY TOWARDS THE POOR.   Look around you and see who is poor and in need and extend your hand and open your heart to him and you will be doing this to Jesus. Remember!  Jesus is truly in your brother and sister, especially the one most in need!

6. ORDER THE DISORDERED!  St. Ignatius and the Exercises challenge us to order our lives. Why not look into your heart now and  cast out any thing that is causing disorder and turmoil.

7. KINDNESS!  In moments of tension, weariness, and overwhelming work responsibilities, the temptation is to snap out and be mean. Strive for  KINDNESS.    A mean word is like a hornet's sting; not easily forgotten! However, a kind word is soothing, strengthening and source of consolation.  As Francis de Sales stated clear and to the point:  "You can save more souls with a teaspoon of honey than a barrel of vinegar!"

8. CHRISTMAS LIGHT: YOUR  LIGHT!  Shine brightly by a life of holiness! Jesus said that he is the Light of the world..... but also,  "You are the light of the world!"  May the Christmas lights motivate you to be a human light, casting out the darkness of sin and pointing to Jesus the light of the world!

9.  COMMUNION AND CHRISTMAS.    The word "Christmas" refers to the Mass of Christ!  No better way to prepare for Christmas and to celebrate Christmas, then to receive Jesus the Bread of Life into your "Bethlehem"--- house of Bread!  True Christmas joy is discovered in receiving Jesus with great faith, love and fervor  in Holy Communion!   "O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

10. MARY AND CHRISTMAS.  Advent is  a very Marian season.  The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Christmas day itself--- Mary is truly present. The joy of the mother is the birth of her child, what immense joy indeed!  The joy of Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and our mother, is the birth of Jesus the Lord and Saviour! May Mary's joy be ours!

True joy and happiness is only found in the Lord. Mary's Magnificat says it all:  "My soul  proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour...."  May this be the most joyful Christmas in your life  because  JESUS is the center, focus, ands heart of this day--- His birthday.  He was born on earth, so that one day you will be born forever in heaven!