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 fulland 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
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
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!
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
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 statusor
not. Jesus believes it is who you areyour thoughts,
talents, imagination and ability to lovethat 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.