Reflection for Thursday, December 21, 2006: 3rd week in Advent.

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Hauser, Dick, S.J.
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"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb."|This is astonishing. Luke presents John the Baptist in his mother's womb leaping for joy when encountering Jesus in Mary's womb.|Encounters with Jesus bring joy - even in wombs!|Advent is the season of preparation for celebrating Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. The Christian world prepares to celebrate this coming in many ways. We take vacations from our daily jobs and gather for Christmas parties with fellow workers. We travel across country to be with family and friends and prepare great feasts. We send greeting cards and buy gifts for one another. At no other time of year do we celebrate with such joy.|But today's Gospel challenges us to reflect more deeply on why we are celebrating. Too often we forget that we are preparing to celebrate a religious event and not simply a national holiday. We are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World -- and the difference this birth makes for our personal lives and for our world.|The best way to observe Advent is spending some time each day in silent wonder reflecting on the mystery of God's becoming human and being born of a virgin. Through personal prayer the Holy Spirit can touch us and help us experience anew the joy of our salvation.|In prayer we can share Zephaniah's joy, |"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! |Sing joyfully, O Israel! |The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, |You have no further misfortune to fear."|In prayer we can exult with the Psalmist, |"Exult, you just, in the Lord! |Sing to him a new song. |Give thanks to the Lord on the harp; |With ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. |Sing to him a new song; |Pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness."|During Advent we are challenged to realize anew what we so often just take for granted. Of course we will continue to celebrate with visiting, feasting, cards and gifts. But we will realize why we are celebrating: Jesus is born.|Encounters with Jesus bring joy. During this season may our hearts leap with joy like John the Baptist's at our own encounters with Jesus.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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