Each year, the busy-ness of the weeks leading up to Christmas can make it all to easy to lose track of the fact that, for Catholics, the weeks of Advent are a time of preparation not just forb parties and presents, get-togethers and relaxation, but also a period in which to be mindful of the coming of Christ.

Advent is itself a gift, as it calls us to reflect on the reality that Christ comes into our lives in many ways. Yes, the
Christmas story means we recall the profound mystery of the Christ child entering into human history some 2,000 years ago. The iconography of mangersand Wise Men you’ll find on Christmas cards reminds us of that truth. But in pondering the birth of Christ, we also become mindful that his birth was not a random event but, in fact, a promise of salvation with the resurrection that followed holding out to all people the hope of eternal life when Christ comes again.  As Catholics, we believe that Godsent Jesus, his son, to earth to save us from our brokenness, our sin, offering us great hope. Christ will come again – and Christmas is a time to remind us of
how to prepare for that day as well as celebrate it.

But it is the third way that Christ entersour lives, on a daily basis, that is the most immediate for the member agencies of Catholic Charities. If we are watching – and listening – we will find the face of Christ in every single person we encounter – every day — as Catholics believe that all people, no matter their background or beliefs, are made in the image and likeness of God. This is the essential underpinning of our member agencies, and the prime motivation for their work.  Whether it’s our neighbour, the stranger next to us in the grocery store, or even the person at work who really gets under our skin – all are a reminder and a reflection of the presence of God in our lives. When we embrace that truth, the notion of working for the common good not only make sense but also takes on a new urgency.

In thinking of the Christmas story, we’ll find at its roots many human vulnerabilities. Mary found herself pregnant
outside of marriage. She and Joseph faced the challenge of not having a roof over their heads when their child was born. The new family could not immediately return to their home after the birth of Christ but fled as migrants
due to an evil ruler’s commands and a hostile environment at home.

While the Christmas story is unique, it speaks to all of us, and it certainly informs the work of Catholic Charities’ member agencies, whether the call is to help teenaged mothers and the underhoused, refugees and other persecuted people, or so many of the people who find themselves on the margins of society. Two thousand years on, people continue to face similar struggles and we continue to be called to help.

The life of Jesus, as seen in the Gospels, is an important model for us as to how we are to treat others, because even the simplest gesture of support or kindness helps make the world a better place, helping us build the kingdom of God.

So if you haven’t yet done so, take some quiet time in the coming days to ponder the gift of Christmas. Imagine the life of the young Mary being changed forever by the Archangel Gabriel. Think of the courage inherent in her saying Yes to what was asked of her, perhaps the greatest leap of faith ever.

And then think of your neighbour, think of the stranger in line at the grocery store, and think of your troublesome
colleague – and ponder what you might do to help. 

Merry Christmas!

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