Dear brothers and sisters,

As Christmas approaches, there are a lot of things that demand our attention. Whether it is shopping, baking, preparing for guests, or getting work wrapped up before everyone who can goes on vacation for the holidays, there are even more distractions than usual. In the spirit of turning our hearts and minds, even for a few moments, back to the mystery of the Incarnation, this month I offer a couple of "words" for reflection during Advent, along with a suggestion for an excellent Franciscan stocking stuffer.

When I became Catholic, I was somewhat surprised that the Mass during the day on Christmas didnít include one of the infancy narratives for the Gospel. I have come to love the Gospel of John, and now I understand why the Good News for Christmas Day comes from the Prologue of Johnís Gospel. My first "word" for us to reflect on is a couple of key lines from that wonderful reading:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us...

I have trouble resisting an exclamation mark at the end of the last line! I can only imagine Francisí joy and wonder at this marvel.

The second "word" for Advent is from Francisí writings, from the letter which forms the prologue to our Rule:

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength, and love their neighbors as themselves and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because "the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them" and he will make "his home and dwelling among them", and they are the sons of the heavenly Father, whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill "the will of the Father who is in heaven".

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example.

This ties us each, directly and individually, to the Word who "made his dwelling among us." It is up to us to continue to make Christ present in the world today.

Finally, if someone in your family needs an idea for a stocking stuffer for you, suggest Francis of Assisi: Writer and Spiritual Master by Thaddee Matura, OFM. This little book (available from Amazon.com, Franciscan Resources, and others) is a great way to start reflecting on St. Francis from the viewpoint of his actual writings (including the two Letters to All the Faithful). If you already have it and havenít read it, this would be a great time to start.

May this season of preparation bring you closer to Christ as we celebrate his coming into our world. Vickie