The Joy of Advent

advent joy

The Joy of Advent

watch and listen

a surprise awaits

invitations offer something wonderful

unique, challenging

Love is deep inside us;

goodness is inside of us

reach to others

embrace them as equals,

as fellow travelers,

who face the same trials and indecisions

let our gentleness and Love

be evident to all.

put aside anxieties

with prayer and thanksgiving

let our goodness thrive

listen to that inner voice

allow God to open our hearts

to His goodness.

anticipate the joy of Advent

the joy of meeting God again

for the first time,

face to face

as one meets a lost friend. 

The Shining Light of Advent

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Light in Advent

In the 1970s, Debby Boone sang a song called “You Light up my Life.” Shortly after, stars, such as Johnny Mathis and Kenny Rogers followed suit; Rogers’ version is my personal favorite.

As we approach Christmas, we are again nearing the light; only this light is much more brilliant than anything a songwriter could compose. Christian liturgy teaches us that a candle is a gift consuming itself, reminding us of the prayer of faith. We have vigils imploring intercession. The Paschal Candle is symbolism of the risen Christ Jesus. The biblical readings and prayers at the Easter Vigil reminds us of God’s presence.

Light is very important to us a people of faith. It is our duty to keep this light burning within us, showing our true nature to those we meet, as we progress through our daily drudgery. We must turn this daily drudgery into a walk of faithful gratitude. Gratitude for those around us, no matter how cranky they may seem on a particular morning.

As we project this light to our friends, family, and coworkers, we not only lighten our lives, we lighten theirs also. The kindness projected by this inner light awakens a similar light within those we meet. We may not realize it immediate, and for that fact, others may not appreciate it immediately. As we continue to offer this light to others, the aura, the eminence of this light grows in importance. People look forward to greeting you, because they know that they will be received in kindness.

Advent is so much more than preparing for Christmas. It is a time to remember who we are, who our fellow men and women are, and how we stand together in our Love for God, ourselves, and all others . . . family, friends, and strangers.

Focusing during Advent

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Focus in Advent

One of the more difficult tasks we face on a daily basis is focusing on who we are and what we are doing. During Advent, while we await the renewal of our faith in Jesus, our ability to focus is challenged more than any other time of the year. We are distracted by year-end duties at work; we are thinking of taxes and other money matters.

As we think about all society calls us to do, we lose focus as to what we really must do. We must take time from each day to reach our inner persona, the one that belongs to God. If we are trying to live a life faithful to what Jesus taught us, we have to put all mundane chores aside and meditate; focus on who we are and what our spiritual relationship to all aspects of God truly is.

Over millennia ago, God gave us Peace on Earth; we immediately lost it. We are overly primed by society’s rules to prepare for battle, be it war, or conflicts at work, or in the family. It does not have to be this way. When Jesus offers peace, he is referring to eternal peace, peace in our relationship with God, ourselves, and our neighbors. When Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is with you,” he is assuring us that God is with us, no matter where we are, or what we are doing. Perhaps if we put our unnecessary conflicts behind us, focus on the fact that God promises Heaven on Earth for all, not just us, we will be able to truly enjoy and be enriched by this Advent season.

Since this is the season for giving, we have to determine what we must give. I always find it difficult to find the correct gift, when I possess the best gift of all: Love. This takes focus; this take intent; this takes nerve. If we are truly interested in giving a gift that will last, that means the most to its recipients, then Love is the answer. We must focus on why we are giving this gift, realizing that our intent is to improve the eternal lives of our loved ones.

Our gift need not be something of monetary value. Instead of a gift card, or an ugly sweater, or a Christmas tie, our gift should be something that we know will be truly appreciated and accepted by those to whom we give. For example, before my sister died, we exchanged gifts of donations to our favorite charities. By doing things as these, we give Love to our loved ones and Love to those we do not know.

By God’s Grace, we are here; we are here together, needing to boost each other when needed. When we give of ourselves, and not some trinket of marginal monetary value, we spread the Joy of God to all. Our gift creates ripples, ripples that can spread throughout humanity.

Watching and Listening

meetinb Jesus

Watching & Listening in Advent

Watch and listen; look for surprises. Invitations await you offering something wonderful, unique, and challenging. Love is buried deep inside us; but if left unattended, it can lose its ability to direct our lives. The goodness is inside of us, resisting the challenge by disinterest.

Disinterest destroys our ability to reach out to others and embrace them as equals, as fellow travelers, who face the same trials and indecisions as we do. This causes undo stress in our lives, and in many instances, can turn us into negative, troublesome people, comfortable with spreading discontent.

To defeat this, we must let our gentleness and Love be evident to all. We must put aside all anxieties with prayer and thanksgiving. . . in all situations. We can let our goodness thrive if we listen to that inner voice of God, and thus, allow God to open our hearts and minds to His goodness.

We feel the darkness encroaching all around us; the need for light is prominent. By continuously watching and listening for this light, we surely will fend off hopelessness. If not, we experience despair, unease, unhappiness. And, we project this to all, affecting their opportunities to watch, to listen.

As we watch and listen during this season of Advent, we anticipate the joy of Christmas, the joy of meeting God again for the first time, face to face as one meets a lost friend. 

I love watching the decorations go on all of the houses in my neighborhood. My neighbors really have a variety of ways to celebrate the season. One of my neighbors always construct the nativity in their front yard. The simple light, showing a simple serene setting speaks to me in a renewed way. Although I do not even own a nativity scene, and probably never will, I can sit, watch and listen for meeting Jesus again . . . for the first time.

 

Journey Through Advent

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Journey through Advent

There are times in my life when I just feel like quitting, giving up, letting others do for me.

During our church’s Lectio Divina prayer group, I spoke of how we rejoice when in the presence of God; because, I know that God is with me, God is within me always, during good times or bad. I know that during group sessions, such as during Lectio, my prayers become stronger; I am with other like-minded children of God. The Gospel assures us always that when we bond together in prayer, we create transformational relationships with each other and with God.

On Sunday, I always attend church, knowing that I will not be comfortable physically; I pray to God, hoping beyond hope that spiritually I would improve, while being with others. It works; my mind and soul is close to God’s Love and Compassion when in church. Through the prayers, which I silently recite, the excellent thought-provoking homilies, and the wonderful music, I remain spiritually enriched.

The scheduled healing prayer minister needed a replacement. Asking if if I could step, I agreed. I joined other servers at the Table to celebrate communion. I am always sure that I am spiritually capable of truly passing God’s Blessings to others. After receiving the Sacraments, I positioned myself in the prayer corner, expecting my fellow congregants to stop and pray.

Two parishioners joined me asking for communal prayers to God. I spoke from the heart; I have no idea what the words were that I used. What I do know is that by the time the service was over, my spiritual condition as usual had changed dramatically. The power of two of us praying for God to touch our lives is a wonderful experience.

When we pray, no matter how dire the situation seems, God listens. When we pray, the bond between us, and between God and us strengthens to such a point as to change our very lives. When we ask God for anything, thanksgiving is increased innumerably. When we give thanks to God, something within ourselves returns to its natural state and returns our world to the way God meant for it to be. Prayers are meant to be shared.

In our journey, in our awaiting for the renewal of Christ in our lives this Advent season, may you experience all of the love and understanding offered freely by God.  

 

Sunrise and a New Day

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Sunrise and a New Day

How would you respond to my belief that each new day is a time for rebirth for all of us? Each morning we rise, we are given a new chance to live our lives and enjoy the peace and love that is in front of us, but rarely taken inside of us.

I went to bed last night with our older cat, Lucy, sleeping between my wife and I, my hand resting on Lucy’s rump. I awoke this morning with Lucy nibbling on my right pinky, telling me it was time to rise and feed all three of our cats. While I was meditating, the other two, Noelle and Sabastian, were sitting on either side of the chair I occupied. (All three cats were adopted by us from our two children, which is not the first time we have inherited grand pets from them.)

This is a loving and comforting way to awaken in the morning surrounded by the love of these three cats. As much as I complain about their boxing several times a day, I do appreciate that God has chosen us as companions for them. Francis of Assisi received sainthood for many reasons, including his belief that all creatures deserved God’s love and caring, and his work to protect animals and their environment; our animal guests in our houses reflect this blessing. And, their love of us is a response to our mutual sharing of God’s blessings.

I love watching the birds flit from feeder to feeder in our backyard. I love how the birds, the squirrels, and the groundhogs, sit side-by-side on the ground eating the sees and corn kernels, without fighting among themselves. (My cats love watching them also, but I think for different reasons.) The enjoyment I receive watching these creatures dine, is wonderful, but I keep reminding myself that what is cute to me is a fight for survival for them. My wife is the keeper of the bird feeders; she always says that she does not pray. I say that her love of the birds and her refilling the feeders daily, shows the power of prayer in her.

So, I rise each day, challenged by a new day, a new world, and a new life. I pray that my actions throughout the day will please God and all of his creatures, including mankind.

 

Thanksgiving

thanksgiving   Thanksgiving

As we approach one of our oldest celebrations in the United States, I ask that we try to remember what Thanksgiving represents.

In the past few decades it has become a time for tailgating at football games, stuffing ourselves with more food than we need, and finally, going to the mall to buy that 72” TV that we also really don’t need. Thanksgiving has become a very inconsequential time for gluttony in all respects.

The original Thanksgiving, if we trust recorded history, and I do, was a meal shared by new immigrants to the North American continent, who were saved by the love and sharing of the natives they met on these shores. It was a time of brotherhood and sharing of community . . . without discord or hatred, a time of brotherly love.

Spiritually, I think of Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on the beauty of life, given to us by God, all life. Personally, part our family will join to share several meals over the long weekend. Linda and I will join our daughter, her husband and son, Linda’s brother, and our son. The celebration begins Wednesday night at our house, moves to our daughter’s on Thursday, and ends in a celebration at a local winery on Saturday. Yes, it may be a decadent weekend on the surface. But throughout the weekend, we will take time to thank God for the many blessings he has given all of our family, those with us, and those in separate parts of the world.

We will also reflect on those members of our extended family of mankind who cannot share in the abundance we enjoy in the United States.

I will take time to personally remember that God is at the center of our lives, thank Him for the gifts, and pray that my less fortunate brothers and sisters, suffering in suppressed and oppressed areas of the world, be given His comfort. As I think about all of the pleasures we have in the United States and then think of the suffering around the world, I am reminded that Jesus taught that whatever we do to the poorest, we do to him. This bothers me. As an individual, I cannot do much to assist those suffering, but I can pray. I can work locally to help those in the Fredericksburg area have a more pleasant life, whether it is assisting them to get Medicaid, or teaching others at church meetings that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of what color or religion we are. Between close family members, in-laws, cousins, nieces, and nephews, I maybe have 40 family relatives, but as a child of God, I have billions. I care just as deeply for them, even if they do not share my bloodline.

I pray that God blesses all in this time of thanksgiving. I also pray that all of us take the time to think of others less fortunate and say a pray, silently or aloud, for them.

Happy Thanksgiving, my brothers and sisters throughout the world. As God does, I love you all.