Joyful Witness
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 We live in a broken world filled with increasing levels of immorality, darkness, violence and evil. Even within places of worship we have seen bloodshed come upon people of faith simply trying to give praise to God. When we are told to be vigilant it can lead us to believe that danger is imminent or a threat is real.  The Season of Advent invites us to be vigilant, but not to invoke fear or concern. On the other hand, it is an invitation to keep our eyes on Jesus. Advent is a season of preparation. We are asked to enter a sacred time leading to the blessed celebration of Christmas. 

 Christmas is the very reminder that immorality, darkness, violence and evil does not win. It is for certain that those realities will show forth their ugly face and attempt to beat us up and tear us apart. However, the very celebration of Christmas makes clear a message that darkness and evil do not have final victory, for light and peace have a name. The name is Jesus who is Emmanuel – God is with us!

 Indeed, Christmas is much bigger than one day and is needed more than ever. Advent offers Christians an opportunity to prepare for such an important celebration. When someone or something is so important in your life you get ready for it. Think about a new born baby or a wedding day. Those nine months of anticipation leading up to the birth or the joyous time of engagement to make way for the big day have great importance. These celebrations are life changing. The mother and father and man and woman will never be the same. The time of preparation when used wisely can lead us to remain focused on what is most important and to ready ourselves for the new adventure.

 Advent 2018 begins on Sunday, December 2. It will be here very soon and will no doubt come and go very quickly. If we blink too long it will be over and done. The invitation will be the same as it is always: Be Vigilant. What exactly are we looking for? We are not waiting for imminent danger or a scary threat. On the contrary, we are called to redirect our lives to the very answer we need in a darkened world, JESUS. What role does Jesus play in the story of your life? Does Jesus have a main part or have you cast him only in a supporting role? Does Jesus have any lines to say or is he expected to remain silent and only to be seen in the background? Better yet, who is the director? You or Jesus? 

 Jesus is far more important than just another character in the story. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (John 3:16). Do not let this Advent and Christmas come and go. Be not afraid or too busy to enter into the season. Be vigilant and stay focused. Do not place too much importance on the things that come and go and in the end do not matter most. Keep your eyes on Jesus! Jesus will give you peace in every moment of fear and anxiety. Jesus will be the light to guide you through any period of darkness. Jesus will rescue you from death and offer you eternal life. Are you willing to trust Jesus and let him take you on this adventure? Do not delay, for now is the time. If you are willing then buckle up and enjoy the ride. You will never be the same. Stay awake, be ready, you do not know the hour when the Lord is coming.

 Now go forth and be a joyful witness!

Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.