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One a Day
During Advent

by Kevin Regan

Some days it's hard to get out of bed. The daily routines of school, bells, classes, practices, sports and homework can cast a spell over you. You can feel as though you're sleep-walking, even though you want to be awake.

Advent, the Church's new year, is an invitation to wake up! This can be a turn-around time for you. Now is the time to understand yourself more completely. Now is the time to improve your relationships with peers and with God.

These reflections are a voluntary prescription, a spiritual vitamin. God, the Divine Doctor, invites you to take one a day during Advent. Each week's dose is a different color or theme. Each theme is considered within the Christian context or connection.

If you miss one, don't double up. Each day's dose is packed full—and two may be one too many!

The Indians of North America, your Jewish sisters and brothers, your Muslim neighbors and gentle Buddhist friends inspire these reflections. Each Sunday introduces a different lens to look through as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

This Youth Update includes four full weeks of reflection to prepare for Christmas, even though not every calendar year contains a full fourth week. Sometimes Christmas comes early in the fourth week, sometimes near its end. This way, you can use this issue again and again.

Week One: Place

SUNDAY: Place. A particular tree, mountain or river will be holy or sacred to Native Americans because such places have formed the lives of the people. The story of each tribe member develops from the places where that person was raised. Place is like the words of a mother, forming the mind, the heart and the imagination of her children. Be aware this week of places that are special for you. What imprint have these places left on your life?

MONDAY: My Sacred Place. Places matter. They influence you. Do you have a sacred place? Perhaps your room, a dance studio or a ball field holds special meaning for you. Here you can be yourself. Here your thoughts and feelings are valued. Just being you feels right. Thank God for the places special to you. Expect God to help you to discover in these places the presence of Jesus who loves you.

TUESDAY: A Place of Peace. Violence is an unwanted intruder in homes, schools and city streets throughout the land. Creating your own place away from the tensions and stresses of daily life can help you to become a person of peace. God's prophet Isaiah said that justice, love and peace are signs that you are in a place made holy or sacred by God. Is your sacred place free from hate, jealousy and the desire for revenge? Advent can be your time to ask Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to guide your thoughts, feelings and actions into the way of peace.

WEDNESDAY: Everything Is Connected. Chief Seattle of the Susquamish tribe described all life as a web in which all places are connected. We are one strand in the web. What we do to the web, we do to ourselves. Polluting lakes and streams or trashing the roadsides expresses disrespect for the web of life. Take some action to care for the earth, to protect the environment that provides you with food, shelter and clothing.

THURSDAY: A Place of Faith. When healing two blind men, Jesus said, "Because of your faith, it shall be done to you." For any great thing to happen in your life, you must begin by believing it possible. God's action waits for your faith, your trust. Where is the place that helps you to believe that there is a power beyond yourself, a God who loves you? If you don't believe in God's love for you, in what do you trust? God needs your faith to work miracles in your life!

FRIDAY: A Place to Know Yourself. When you go to a birthday party, what gift do you bring? Whatever it is, it represents you. But how well do you know yourself? What are your hopes and fears? What are your dreams and beliefs? A mirror reflects your outward appearance. Is there a place that acts as a mirror for you to reflect who you are on the inside? As you think your thoughts and feel your feelings, you learn to know your strengths and accept your weaknesses. You become more yourself each day. What a gift to bring to Christ on his birthday!

SATURDAY: A Place to Rest. Stress-stress-stress! Do the words "busy," "hurry" or "no time now" rush through you as you race through each day? You can create a place of stillness to slow yourself down. A church, a cemetery, a pond or a city park will do. Here at least you can slow down, catch your breath and listen to the silence. Jesus invited the weary to come to him to find rest. May you discover Jesus in the stillness of your sacred place.

Week Two: History

SUNDAY: History. Native Americans discovered the Great Spirit in the created world. Our ancestors in the faith, the Jewish people, recognized God's holy presence within the events of human history. God spoke to them as he speaks to you today through the events of your life. This week think about the events that make up your history. Ask God to help you to understand your personal history as a way to prepare for the celebration of Jesus' entrance into history.

MONDAY: Your Name. For the Jewish people, to know someone's name gives knowledge of the person and power over that person. The name God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai was full of mystery. The Jewish people won't even say it or write it in full. Reflect on your name. It's a window through which people look to see you. What do they see? Is your name something you respect? When you are alone today, repeat your name prayerfully and gratefully. Refuse to answer anyone who doesn't address you with respect.

TUESDAY: Being Called. Because they answered a call from God, the Jewish people became a community that has changed the course of human history. Because Mary answered yes to the angel, she was an avenue for Jesus to become the center of human history. To get a call, even a phone call, is an invitation to answer, to respond. Think about your talents, interests and hobbies as a phone call to you from God. He is calling you to answer in ways that will change the history of the world in which you live. Advent is a great time to listen and respond!

WEDNESDAY: Commandments. Your Jewish neighbors made the choice to answer God's call by following the commandments to love God and neighbor. These two values are the roots of their work in the world and the wings of their life of obedience to God. What values guide your decisions? Are you honest, loyal and fair? Which values are your own and which values belong to parents, school or some other source? Are you developing your own roots and wings?

THURSDAY: Beyond Belief. Do you believe everything you see or hear from friends, videos or ads? They are full of images and sound bites that tell you what to wear, how to think and what to do. The media want you to believe their ideas are really your own. But they are not! The single belief in a loving God guides the holidays, dress and religious practices of your Jewish neighbors. Take a few minutes to be by yourself each day to ask God to help you discover what it is you really believe. Ask Jesus to become a center of belief for you.

FRIDAY: Shalom. The word for peace in Hebrew is shalom. Shalom blends three ideas together: mind, body and spirit as one. It is not simply an absence of violence but rather harmony and order in all of life. Jesus comes at Christmas to be your peace. Pray to know Jesus, to know peace. How can you bring peace to others?

SATURDAY: Hope. Some people live without hope. Although the Jewish people have endured suffering beyond description, they have not lost their hope in God's promise to them. Hope shows that you acknowledge a source of power beyond yourself. Prepare for this Christmas by saying a prayer or lighting a candle for someone whose situation may seem hopeless. This can affirm for them and you that the risen Jesus is the foundation of Christian hope.

Week Three: Quest

SUNDAY: Quest. Is your life adventurous? Have you ever thought you were on a quest in search of some great but unknown goal? Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, honored by many of our Asian neighbors, left a life of luxury to seek knowledge of a spiritual goal, a path to freedom from suffering. His quest is called "The Great Going Forth." During this week of Advent imagine yourself on a journey, a great going forth to discover a freedom that alone can make you happy.

MONDAY: Why Do I Suffer? Suffering is like an uninvited guest; no one escapes its visit. It might be parents separating, sickness or the death of someone you love. Suffering can lead you to feel isolated and powerless, but a suffering shared can suddenly become lighter and bearable. Jesus said that he came especially for those who were tired and heavily burdened. This Advent, ask Jesus to help you through your suffering and to carry your burden with you. You may wish to ask for a friend to help.

TUESDAY: Heart and Treasure. Do you know what you want more than anything else? If you do, you know your treasure. If you are not sure, look to your heart. What is your heart's longing? Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure as well. Can you name your heart's treasure? Do you understand how your actions follow your heart? God's love brought Jesus to you. Your love will bring you to Jesus.

WEDNESDAY: Slow Down the Motion. What's the hurry? Rush keeps you stressed, blocks communication and robs your journey of joy. Both Buddhist and Christian prayer invites you to slow down. Set aside a few moments today to be still, to breathe slowly and to focus on the name Jesus as you inhale and exhale. Keep your mind free of thoughts in the immediate present where God is always with you.

THURSDAY: Freedom for Compassion. Are you free? The quest to be free can tempt people to become slaves to alcohol, drugs and "stuff." Each of these can be a terrible dictator. Buddhists and Christians agree that compassion and service are doorways to freedom. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, work at a homeless shelter or listen to a dejected classmate. What freedom from self-absorption will be yours!

FRIDAY: Quest for Forgiveness. The Dalai Lama is leader of Tibetan Buddhism. The Chinese drove him from Tibet. Thousands of his people have been killed. The Dalai Lama has never encouraged violence toward the Chinese people. Jesus forgave his tormentors from the cross. Forgiveness allows people a new beginning. This is the message of Jesus at Advent. Is there someone who waits for your forgiveness?

SATURDAY: Spiritual Tattoo. Buddhists often shave their heads as a sign of their poverty. They seek to avoid the pride and jealousy that can result from too much concern about looks, especially hairstyles. In our nation, tattoos have become popular for many young people. Both tattoos and shaving the head can communicate how a person sees herself or himself. Think of Jesus as God's tattoo, a visible expression of the invisible. What does Jesus show you about God? What is God saying to you?

Week Four: Surrender

SUNDAY: Surrender. Islam (whose followers are called Muslims) is one of the fastest-growing religions among people of African-American descent. Mohammed Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Malcolm X are among its best-known practitioners. Muslims attempt to surrender their lives to Allah. They are guided in this effort by the Five Pillars of Islam, which are similar in some ways to the central themes of Advent. These will guide your final preparation to celebrate Christmas, the feast of God with us.

MONDAY: Opening Doors. Are you a door opener? Can friends in trouble count on you for a hopeful word? Are you a complainer or a problem solver? Prayer is the key to unlocking doors closed by disappointment, injustice or rejection. Prayer expresses your faith that not everything is in your control. Because prayer shows your trust in God's love for you, it is the best way to prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

TUESDAY: What Do You Believe? Your beliefs are like an invisible rudder that guides your ship through the waters of life. Your actions follow your beliefs. If, like our Muslim neighbors, you believe God loves you, that helps you to be loving yourself. If you believe only what you want is important, your actions will show it. During this week look at your actions to discover your beliefs. Ask God to deepen your faith in Christ whose birthday is near.

WEDNESDAY: Gift of Hope. Muslims donate a specific portion of their income to care for the poor. The society in which you live often says to forget the poor and take care of number one. Jesus tells you that your generosity is a mirror reflecting your willingness to love others. Look for just one genuine need that you can meet by generously sharing your time, talents or money.

THURSDAY: Clothing. Muslim mystics called Sufis wear wool clothing as a sign of poverty and identification with the poor. In the U.S., clothes can serve as a clue to who has money, power and status—or not. Jesus believes it is who you are—your thoughts, talents, imagination and ability to love—that makes you important. Pray to be free from the trap of advertising. Ads tempt you to spend big bucks to pay for something that will wear out and be out of style in a year. In Jesus, God offers you a lasting and unchanging love. That's a bargain that is hard to refuse.

FRIDAY: Your Dream. It is the dream of Muslims to make a pilgrimage, a sacred journey to Mecca, their holiest city. They long for this dream to become real. The dream of Jesus is that you love one another, even your enemies. This is the longing of his heart. Muslims make great sacrifices to fulfill their dream. Jesus lived, died and rose to make God's love visible. Prepare for the coming of Jesus' birthday by thinking about your longing, your dream. Will it connect to the dream of Jesus? What steps can you take to begin to make it happen?

SATURDAY: God With Us. God became human so you could become Godly. Jesus comes to you as a mirror. When you look at Jesus you see yourself as God sees you. Pray that you may look into the mirror and see yourself as God sees you. You are God's beloved. To celebrate the birth of Jesus is to celebrate Jesus born each day in you. Mechanical living, as if in a sleep, is past. You are now awake to the miracles God is working within you and around you each day.

Kevin Regan is the married father of two adult children. He teaches at La Salle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island. His written work includes both books and articles for a variety of publications.

Michelle Jones (14), Brandon Lindsay (13), Kris Lindsay (16), Ryan Lindsay (13) and Brandon Williams (17), all members of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Lincoln Heights, Ohio, met after Sunday Mass for lunch and discussion of this issue.

 

Two Ways to Travel Through Advent

  • Gather with one or two friends to reflect together on the meanings these mini-meditations hold for each of you. You can close with a prayer of thanks for one another and for God's holy presence.
  • Keep this issue in your backpack and read one each day when you can take the time.

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