Happy New Year!  On January 1st we wish everybody a happy New Year. What about the 1st Sunday of Advent?  This initiates the church New Year. Should we not wish our friends and relatives a spiritual happy New Year?

Advent focuses on JESUS. He will come!  Emmanuel means “God is with us!” There are three comings of Jesus: in history He was Incarnate and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago. He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Finally, He comes every day and every moment through grace. Most especially Jesus comes at every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Jesus was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, Jesus is constantly being born in the hands of the priest in the moment of consecration. Still more Jesus is born in the hearts of all who receive Him with great faith, devotion and love in receiving Holy Communion.

Given that Advent is already close to knocking at our doors, let us offer ten short suggestions on how we might live out the most fruitful of Advent’s in our lives. We can never tell if this could be our last Advent. Let us be prepared!

1.    PRAY! Make a firm commitment this Advent to pray more than you normally do as well as with greater fervor! Jesus came to cast fire; may your hearts burn within you as you pray like the disciples on the road to Emmaus!

2.    SACRIFICE!   All of us can give up something that we like to show our love and apreciation for Jesus who loves us so much and suffered so much for us to open up the gates of heaven and to save our immortal souls. St. Ignatius of Loyola specifies that Jesus was born in Bethlehem so as to die for us on the cross on Calvary. The crib and the cross are interconnected! Jesus does not look at the “bigness” of the action but the purity of intention. Remember the widow’s mite.(Lk.21:1-4)      

3.    CONFESS.  Clean out the dirty barn of your soul so that on the day Jesus is born He will have a clean and a warm welcome!

4.    BIBLE.  The Church highly recommends the reading of the Bible, the Word of God.  St. Jerome warns us: “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ. However in the “Strong” Liturgical Seasons of Lent and Advent the Church even more urgently exhorts us to read and meditate on the Word of God.

5.    BIBLE VERSE MOTIVATION!  Why not choose some Bible verse or passage, or some scene that really seems to captivate you to motivate you to live out to the fullest possible extent this Advent. Live out this Advent as if it were to be the last Advent in your life!

6.     MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION!  By far the best action we could possibly carry out in living out Advent, Lent, or any time is to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, participate fully, actively, and consciously and especially receive Holy Communion with burning love.  An interesting linguistic note---- “Christmas” means the “Mass of Christ!” Indeed every day can be Christmas for us!

7.     FORGIVE AND HEAL THE WOUNDS!   We all are hurt and have been hurt; we all hurt others; and we have all hurt God due to our sins!  If it is such that we are still clinging on to old hurts, allowing resentments to fester, and nursing old grudges, Advent is a prime-time and propitious opportunity to forgive and allow God to heal your wounded heart! Jesus is the Prince of Peace and wants to restore peace to your wounded heart! Remember the words of Jesus:  Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

8.    CONFESSION--- bring the whole family to cleanse their souls!    One of the primary tricks of the devil is to keep us away from the Sacrament of Confession.  What does the devil say?  The following: “Do it tomorrow; the priest is too busy and why waste his time; the priest will yell at you. My sin is too big and I am afraid and ashamed!”  All of these lies of the devil we can easily swallow hook, line and sinker! Offer the Confession to Jesus as a Birthday Gift.  He relishes clean and pure hearts.  He Himself said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

9.    LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.   In this Advent Season be on the lookout as to what poor, sick, elderly, hungry or thirsty, lonely or depressed individual you can visit and bring the love of Jesus to! Read Mt. 25: 31-46. Jesus gives us an outline of our final test on the Day of Judgment. Did we show love by giving--- food, drink, clothes, time and a warm welcome. You might even view the “Christmas Carol” of Charles Dickens to motivate you!  Which Tiny Tim has God placed in your path! Do not be afraid to pick him up on your healthy shoulders and carry him. “He ain’t heavy; he is my brother!”

10. MARY AND MERRY CHRISTMAS.  To live out a fruitful Advent which culminates in the joy of Christmas—the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—invite Mary to be with you the whole time! Nobody on earth lived out this season better than the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will teach us the “Reason for the Season”. Mary will teach us that Advent is indeed a special Liturgical time of Preparation for the birth of her Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the American society so immured with money, materialism, leading to consumerism it is all too easy to become oblivious to the real meaning of Christmas.  Christmas is not simply about buying  and toys and things and possessions! No!  The real GIFT of Christmas is not a material commodity, but a PERSON. That “Person” is Our Lord and Savior Jesus, born in the poor, damp and cold stable of Bethlehem of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May Our Lady teach us the true meaning of Christmas by living out fervently and faithfully this Advent Season.