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Dear brothers and sisters,

Advent is a great season! I love the energy, and the egg nog, the lights, and decorations. All of the preparations that we make to welcome the Infant King, the Prince of Peace, the one who comes to show us the path of life and to guide us with his grace and word towards a life of true human flourishing. Yes, Jesus comes that we might have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10).

Central to that fullness of life in Christ is our relationship with God. God wants to be connected to us; he wants to be part of our daily life. And a big part of his presence is learning to rely on him, believing that he will “show up” when we need him.

God is not the jimmies on top of the cupcake, but the very cake itself, not the extra that makes life special but the heart and basis of our existence. But sometimes we can live as if God is an “extra” - called upon in special occasions with the hope that he may be of some assistance. This tendency in our world, seeming to be prevalent at times, can sink in and become part of how we think about things. It is good at times to recognize when our culture crowds us, influences our thinking away from the Gospel perspective.

In the Bible, people repeatedly put their faith and trust in God, that he will act. God performs wonderful signs to confirm who he is and to indicate the way forward. Women and men of faith expect miracles of God and God keeps sending them. God sends wonderful signs both big and small. So, we are inviting you, all of us, to name, pray for and expect a miracle this Christmas. Hence, our key question during this season: “What is the miracle I am expecting this Christmas?” This weekend we have cards in the pews so that all of us can name that miracle. We are collecting them and our whole team will begin to pray with you. Next week, we invite you to pray not only for your miracle but also for other miracles from our parish family.

Expecting miracles is not only about naming and praying; there are things we can do to ready the way for the action of God. Over the next two weeks, our Gospel centers on John the Baptist, who is the heroic precursor to Emmanuel. John is the prophet who announces the Messiah, our Savior. But John is also pragmatic or practical. People come to him in the desert to repent of their sins; they seek to set things right. Today he shouts out words from the prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.”

If you think about it, hidden in those words is a portion for us and a portion for God. John (and Isaiah) invites us to do what we can do, so God can do what he can do. Each of us can “prepare the way of the Lord” in our hearts, in our lives; we can set things to right in some way. Get ready for the coming of the Messiah, for the in-breaking of the kingdom. We can set the stage for the miracle. But we cannot fill in all the valleys and make the hills low! That part is up to God. If we really want a miracle in our lives, this season of preparation encourages us to do our part, so God can do his. We do the possible so God can do the impossible. So, we want a miracle, some wonderful sign this Christmas, it is first our responsibility to get rid of the obstacles that are keeping God from intervening in our lives. That is the repentance part of what John the Baptist preaches. He offers very practical suggestions too (next week’s Gospel: Lk 3:10-18). What kind of preparatory work can you do for the miracle you expect this season?

Yours in the Lord,

Fr. Joel Wilson