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Advent and Christmas Reflection

A close up picture of a section of a Christmas tree with a wooden ornament that says, "Merry Christmas".

We are in the middle of Advent and Christmas Day is fast approaching.

The readings for Advent are about preparing ourselves for when the Lord comes. Pope Francis, at the start of the Advent Season, said this was a time for us to be shaken out of our lethargy and awaken from our slumber. He said we always have to be vigilant. God is present with us now, often in the everyday aspects of our lives, and we’re likely to miss seeing and hearing God if we aren’t truly attentive.

Contemporary culture offers us an overwhelming array of distractions. They make us lose sight of God. At this time of year, it’s easy to be seduced by the twinkling of dazzling lights, glittering baubles, charming festive music, jolly Santa Clauses in every store and never ending invitations to buy lots of gifts to place under the Christmas tree and food and drink to celebrate a great feast with family and friends.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not advocating that we all become modern day Ebenezer Scrooges who chant “Bah, humbug!” at the sights and sounds of modern day Christmas in Australia. After all, the birth of Jesus and all that means for the world is a cause for great joy and hope. That is worth celebrating with every fibre of our being.

My Mum was Polish. She told me it was a tradition for Poles to set a place at the Christmas table for the Christ Child. It’s a wonderful tradition which helps us to keep God at the centre of our celebrations and to see Christ in everyone and everything around us.

If we stay attuned to God around us, we won’t forget the people, near and far, who are facing daily struggles. We’ll think about the immpact of our purchases on the world around us and how much we waste. We will recall that Christ came to bring hope and liberation to all who are burdened down and that we are his ambassadors today. How we celebrate Christmas should say a lot about who Christ is and the hope he brings for all.

Preparing the way of the Lord means we make room at our table, not only for our family and friends, but, in one way or another, we make room for homeless people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, refugees, the Great Barrier Reef, the critically endangered eastern curlews and all our sisters and brothers, human and non-human alike, who face great struggles.

I’m showing my age when I recall the 1971 No. 1 hit song by Australian singer, Colleen Hewitt, Day by Day. The song alternated between the chanting of the mantra, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” and a refrain which, for me, is the essence of the conversion that is the perennial hope of our Advent and Christmas preparations and celebrations:

Day by day, O, dear Lord, these things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly,
to love Thee more dearly,
To follow Thee more nearly.

I hope and pray that we all become more attentive to the presence of God in our lives and that you find hope and joy this Christmas.

Finally, I want to say a big thank you and farewell to Patrice Moriarty. For the last few years, Patrice has veeb responsible to putting this newsletter together each month and much, much more. Patrice has completed her studies and is about to begin a new career. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, Patrice, for all you have done. You have been a great blessing to us all. I wish you much happiness as you begin this new chapter in your life. We’ll all miss you greatly!

Peter Arndt
Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace