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Advent defined: arrival that has been awaited (especially of something momentous). The Messiah, the Saviour, will finally arrive. For the shepherds, Magi and the Holy Family, the angelic appearances were very clear. The Christ Child was born.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story progressed. We have the advantage of knowing the Good News. We have the advantage of knowing so much about the life of our Lord – knowledge that reinforces our faith. Each year we have the opportunity to renew that faith.

As we enter the new year in our religious life this Advent season, we have the opportunity to do just that – renew our faith, reset our lives and consider new possibilities for our faith journey. Take the time in the weeks of Advent to feel the themes of hope, peace, joy and love.

Perhaps the most needed of these is hope. So many disadvantaged people live with little or no hope. How awful a life must be without hope! Hopelessness is debilitating, and leads to so many social problems. We need to sow the seeds of hope in our communities. We must show people that we Christians care for them, that not only can they find hope in Jesus but in us as well. Look for opportunities to help those in need, to give them hope.

Peace is one of the most elusive things in our world. Whether it be in a strife filled country, a city with countless acts of violence or a home with a dysfunctional family, peace is sadly lacking. How do we build peace? How do we live peacefully? How do we end strife?

Clearly, we need to learn the ways of peace. This will be a challenge. We have a very long history of “settling” arguments with anger, fighting or warfare. We need to study how to deescalate situations, avoid confrontation, use peaceful protest, economic and political non-cooperation and other non-violent means to promote change or resist oppression. Non-confrontational means to reconcile differences must be a first course of action. Look for courses and literature that can help us learn to live in peace with each other. Encourage our politicians to search for peaceful ways to engage other world leaders.

Spread joy. Centre yourself and notice the everyday joys in life. Being joyful yourself can be contagious. Sharing kindness can bring you joy. Giving thanks for your blessings can bring you joy. Feeling the awe of creation is joyful. Sing the Carols to yourself. Read your favourite version of the Nativity story. Do something unusual – use religious symbols in your Christmas decorating. Advent is the most joyful of seasons. Put Christ in Christmas. Wish strangers Merry Christmas. Volunteer at a community Christmas dinner. Invite a neighbour into your home for some Christmas cheer. Take a tray of goodies to a senior. Invite a friend over to bake cookies together. There are many small things that you can do to bring joy to yourself as well as someone else.

Love, love, love. Jesus told us that loving God and loving our neighbours are the two greatest commandments. Popular music tells is that “what the world needs now is love … it’s the only thing we have just too little of”. Do you love? Do you feel love? How often – sometimes, every day, momentarily, all the time? Maybe we need to exercise our “love”. If working out makes your body stronger, then why not “work out” on your ability to love. Give love. Spread love. Learn to love. Maybe you will find that love is all you need. With love we will find hope, peace and joy. Just maybe, love will change our world, make it the way God intended it to be.

That would be quite the miracle.

Merry Christmas,

Bonnie G. Rees, President
ACW Diocesan Council