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A message from the bishop

Advent Message (December 2015)
 
My dear friends,
 
Happy New Year! The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Church year. During the season of Advent, we call to mind Christ’s arrival in history at Christmas. We also call to mind Christ’s second coming in glory at the end of time. For how many ages the chosen people waited for the coming of the Messiah! And for how many years we have been praying in the Church’s liturgy for Christ to come again! In our waiting we are permanently an Advent people. As we pray at Mass, “We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ!”
 
Of course, in these times between Christmas and the second coming, we await and also welcome Jesus into our hearts. Throughout Advent we will encounter in our Sunday readings John the Baptist, who cries out now as he did in ancient times, Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Make straight His paths! We might ask ourselves: How are we preparing for Christ to come into our lives? The best answer is by becoming more and more the person God calls us to be. In the Scripture readings during Advent, Christ’s second coming at the end of time is a recurring theme. How central this was for the authors of the New Testament! But between Christ’s birth and his second coming Christ is with us now: when two or more are gathered in his name; when we hear the word of God proclaimed; when we turn to him in prayer; when we receive his body and blood in holy Communion. Jesus was born according to God’s plan and became one like us, and, through his human and divine nature, redeemed us from our sins. Christ is born in each of us as we are baptized. The precious gift of faith enables us to “put on Christ” and through his death and resurrection to share even now in Gods eternal life.
 
As Christians, we should not be comfortable or happy with this world the way it is. We pray for a Redeemer to come and rid the world of all the things that plague it, that terrorize it!  But we should always wait in hope! We have to be hopeful that the coming of Christ will help us to lead a just life, to a renewed creation. Even though our contributions might be small, God has a particular mission for each of us that is of great value in his sight.
 
Our holiday traditions can reinforce this Advent spirit of waiting, hoping and giving. Many families have Advent and Christmas traditions, the most popular of which may be the lighting of the Advent wreath. Lighting a candle each Sunday symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent and gives us a visible focus for the anticipation of Christmas day. My family often had an Advent calendar with little windows for us to open, revealing a picture reflecting the themes and symbols of the Advent and Christmas season.
 
Another Advent activity that I recently heard about is to make two lists on a sheet of paper, with at least 24 lines. Each day starting Dec. 1, write down two items for which you give thanks: something in your life (or perhaps that day) and someone in your life. It’s a “reverse” Christmas list, in a way. Instead of focusing on things you want to get, you are thanking God for what you already have been given. By doing so each day, you will see how God is with you in so many wonderful ways. Your Christmas will surely be different if you do this!
 
Keeping Christ in Christmas is a challenge for all people of faith. The holiday shopping season, with the lure of Black Friday and advertisements, encourages us to be consumers addicted to materialism and to buy what we really don’t need. The Advent season begins just a few days after Thanksgiving. In addition to the expectation, longing for, and preparation for the coming of Christ, I suggest that we extend the season of Thanksgiving into the season of Advent – to be grateful for our Savior, who came as one like us to allow us to be united with God in heaven in the company of the angels and saints.
 
Let us reflect on the meaning of this season as we act on the kindness and generosity that should be at the heart of it. I wish you and your family a holy Advent and a joyful Christmas filled with God’s blessings!
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak