As the world moves into overdrive and begins a manic shopping spree in preparation for the festivities, we Catholics should keep our heads and remember that above all else Advent is a time in which to prepare spiritually to celebrate the great feast of Christmas. How? Pope Francis has commentated: “In their daily routine, St. Joseph, together with Mary, shared a single centre of attention: Jesus. They accompanied and nurtured the growth of the Son of God made man with commitment and tenderness while reflecting on all that was happening. In his Gospel, St. Luke twice emphasizes this attitude of Mary: she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart”. To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, feel his constant presence in our lives, and we must stop and speak with him, giving him space in prayer. In Advent we should ask ourselves, “How much space do I give to the Lord? Do I stop to talk with him?” Ever since we were children, our parents encouraged us to start and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompanies us. Let us remember the Lord more in our daily life, especially this Advent!”
So, beginning today, I encourage you to listen to Pope Francis’ advice and give a short time each day to quiet reflection, prayer, reading the Gospels or whatever. New Walk with Me booklets are available at the back to help you to do this each day of Advent. £1
Two years ago, I introduced you to Olive Aid. This is a charity which helps Palestinians who have lost their olive trees, usually their only source of income, to the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on the West bank and that dreadful security wall. Olive trees are precious: just twenty trees can sustain a family for a year. Olive Aid is a self-help project run by the Catholic Bethlehem University which provides needy families with three year old olive saplings. Christian and Muslim alike are helped but the project particularly aims to stem the emigration of Christian families who suffer the most in the conflict. Today, Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15% of the population. Fifty years ago, Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70% of the population. You can donate a tree for £25. For details see me or go to www.oliveaid.com It is a Christmas Charity that I support and a number of parishioners have joined with me over the past few years.
Finally, now is the time to consider which friend or relation, who may have slipped from practice, you will invite to join you at church “to come home for Christmas”.