Ideal for Advent and Christmas, when we celebrate the Prince of Peace, is a favourite prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which asks God for the grace to become an instrument of God’s peace:

"Where there is hatred, let me sow love,

"Where there is injury, pardon,

"Where there is doubt, faith,

"Where there is despair, hope,

"Where there is sadness, joy ..."

When we do not carry the light of Christ within us, hatred, injury, doubt, despair and sadness are cultivated in the darkness.

Advent is a time to recognise where hatred has darkened the landscape of our homes. We look at broken relationships between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings and those who irritate us. We see how love is lost when anger and injury is unresolved.

In this season of light, ask yourself: Where have I hardened my heart and dimmed the light of Christ’s love in a situation or relationship?

Advent is a time to ignite the light of Christ in our homes by granting or seeking pardon where there has been injury, whether the injury was intentional or not. It is a time to repair broken relationships, to send a card or note, make a reconciliatory phone call or invite an estranged friend to coffee.

Love and pardon eradicate the darkness, allowing the light of Christ, which is always with us, to be revealed.

When we light an Advent or Christmas candle in our home, we can pledge ourselves to the spiritual work of enflaming Christ’s light which that candle symbolises.

Advent is a time to expose the face of doubt and the despair it brings with it. Ask:

Do I doubt that God loves us unconditionally and dwells with us in our home?

Do I doubt that forgiveness is possible and that we can always start anew with God and with one another?

Do I doubt that all of God’s word in Scripture is true?

If doubt has cast its shadow on your life, Advent is a time to seek out the company of Jesus in the Scriptures, to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation or perhaps to seek spiritual counsel to dispel the darkness that doubt brings.

Does all that sound like too much to accomplish in the midst of shopping, baking, planning and decorating for Christmas?

If so, start small. Reconcile a difference with a child or console a grieving relative. Through words of consolation or kindness, bring a moment of joy to someone who is sad. Buy a small pamphlet of Advent prayers and pray them daily at home.

Light one little candle. Christ’s love will shine in that small flame. n

(Pedersen, a veteran coordinator of marriage and family spirituality programs, lives in Omaha. Neb. She is the author of "For Better, for Worse, for God: Exploring the Holy Mystery of Marriage", Loyola Press, December 2008.) - By Mary Jo Pedersen

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