If people are celebrating Christmas, then almost assuredly, they also will be spending the weeks before this birthday celebration for Jesus making preparations. Those preparations often take place both inside and outside our homes. It's a time for cleaning things up, getting ourselves ready and accomplishing many tasks that will make our holidays special.
Christians can use these four weeks before Christmas, as well, to do some spiritual housekeeping and preparation work. Starting four Sundays before the actual day, a season we call Advent, there is a tremendous opportunity to "prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths." (Mark 1:3)
While parties, shopping and festivities line December, there also can be time for quiet, for prayer, and for meditation. It can be a time to step aside with the Lord and allow the meaning of the season to permeate our being.
It is also good to remember that this is not a baby Jesus whom we celebrate, but the advent into the world of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose from the dead to save us from our sins.
These weeks before Christmas offer us an opportunity to get closer to one another, to be reconciled with one another, and to express our care and concern for others. It's a time to remember the less fortunate: The unemployed, those struggling with mortgages and bills, and those who can't provide for their families in these hard times. It is a time when our charity and generosity should really come to the forefront.
With charities working desperately to provide for those in need, our contributions of our time and our talents, as well as our sharing of our treasure, can make a big difference. While these days might be more challenging for us with this economic downturn, it is also an opportunity for grace to shine forth in good works. (James 2:14) If Christ be our guide during these times, then our lives can surely shine with grace.
It is also a time for restoration and renewal. The hurts and injuries, both real and imagined, that we have carried with us can often be healed through forgiveness. Something as simple as a Christmas card with a few personal words, written in love, can often be the beginning of that healing. An invitation to share a meal or visit can also be a great way to bridge the divides that separate us.
And what of the person who lives alone or has no one close? The simple gift of a cup of coffee shared or a half-hour spent visiting can really make a difference in that person's life.
Let's not see these four weeks before the Christmas holidays as a mere anteroom to the Christmas season! It can be a season of its own with its own meaning and importance. It can be so much more, if we stop and take the time to truly celebrate with the Lord and with one another.
• Father James Setelik is pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Carson City.