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The Joy of Giving

The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday is the holiest day of the year. However, we all eagerly wait for Christmas like nothing. It’s an exciting period from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Decorations, beloved dishes, and delicacies are exclusively used during this season. Family traditions are carried down, and we build our own additions to our history to some extent. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and wedding anniversaries are just a few of the significant days we commemorate throughout the year. No celebration, however, compares to the joy of our God becoming one of us at Christmas.

It’s critical to remember Jesus as the reason for the season, as well as to tune out the consumerism and excesses in the society around us. Unfortunately, we spent far too much of our adult life holding this thought in our heads but failing to take the necessary measures to integrate it into our hearts. It is in that space with God where we can all recover the innocent and exciting anticipation of a child awaiting her Savior.

According to St. Ignatius of Loyola, prayer should begin with a specific request for God’s favor, one that will strengthen your connection with Him. This request can be made during the whole Advent season (just as we do for Lent).

Then there are the ‘actionable’ pledges. “I’m going to be kinder to people”…”I’m not going to lose my temper”…”I’m going to spend less time on the Internet” are fantastic objectives that require actual actions that particularly include God in our efforts. Otherwise, we’re restricted to our own talents, which we all know are woefully inadequate! “I will spend 15 minutes in silent prayer each day letting God show me why I get angry/disinterested in others,” or “Outside of work-related Internet use, I will only spend 15 minutes on the Internet for my own interests after spending at least 15 minutes in silent prayer with God,” are examples of effective commitments. It’s crucial to set aside time each day for private dialogue with God, and even saints started with just 15 minutes. Begin each day by praying for God’s grace to keep your promise to Him, and then reflect on how it went. He’ll show you how to recognize His presence even in the tiniest of times, as well as how your own brokenness makes keeping these commitments difficult.

Christmas is a time for families to get together and ‘be family.’ Our damaged nature, on the other hand, might make these times together challenging. We are not alone in our anticipation of the Christ child; rather, we are accompanied by the Holy Family during Advent. Mary and Joseph serve as role models for us to follow. They also want to help us through the most challenging relationship situations. Perhaps the nicest present we can give to our extended family is to pray for each of them every day for the rest of Advent. Each is God’s gift to us, but we can’t perceive it because we’re human. Only through God’s love can we perceive the beauty in the souls He has placed in our lives.

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