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No Vacancy: How to Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive

The end of yet another busy Christmas season usually makes for a weary start of the new year as countless holiday decorations are stored away, schools and workplaces are reopened, and life suddenly goes back to “normal.”

Whatever that means, anyway.

Because normal, for me, means that I have to go back to a chaotic schedule of waking up at 5:30 AM for Mass; going to school sleepy-eyed and often irritable; sitting down through less-than-fascinating lectures, more focused on not falling asleep in class than actually paying attention and taking notes; going home to realize that I have a bunch of homework and projects to work on; and sleeping late only to regret it again in the morning.

And the cycle continues. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So as I cherish these last 3 days of Christmas vacation, looking back fondly on Christmas 2011 – at the same time, reluctant to start the second semester, I have to ask myself: how will I be able to keep the Christmas spirit alive in me for the rest of this year?

Christmas is usually a time characterized by “peace, joy, and goodwill to all people” as noted by this cool guy right here. Unfortunately, for most of us, the other 360 or so days of our year can be characterized by.. things other than that.

So thinking in concrete terms, how is it even possible to keep the Christmas spirit alive while we’re supposedly going about our days trying to restrain ourselves from having nervous breakdowns.

The answer as I’ve come to know it, is actually quite simple.

Make room.

Make room for Him who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7).

More times than not, I can look back at the low points of my life where I felt the most desperate, only to realize that during those times, I didn’t make room in my heart for Jesus to dwell – instead, I insisted, like the inn keeper, that I had no room for Him to be born.

And it really makes sense, though. How can we truly rejoice in the coming of our Lord if we don’t prepare a special place in our hearts for Him to dwell?

We need to truly ask ourselves if there are things we hold dear in our hearts that we must get rid of? And most of the time, these things take root in our pride, for pride usually leads to materialism, self-glorification, greed, lust, and envy.

At the same time, it is literally impossible to remain attached to those things which weigh us down and hope to keep our hearts aflame with God’s love.

For Christ Himself knows that “no one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

Of course, (as with most undertakings as Christians) this is easier said than done for we must first find the humility to acknowledge our human weaknesses and abandon ourselves completely to the grace of God.

But once we are able to ask for that grace to overcome such earthly desires and vanities, we are set free from the bonds that prevent us from pursuing such an ideal to live Jesus in our hearts forever.

We are then, able to prepare a place for Christ to dwell in our hearts that we may become reminders to the whole world that, not only is Jesus truly the reason for the season – but He is also our life, our love, and our salvation.

And how beautiful is this, that we can share in the work of Mary and the saints as we strive to bring Jesus into our troubled world today.. Into a world of darkness that so desperately needs the light of Christ to shine out the clearer.

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus encourages us to let our light shine before others that they might come to glorify our Father in heaven. Let us then, strive to be a light for the whole world to see.

Let us make room for Him.

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Welcome to Universal Faith!

Merry Christmas to all my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and we also kick off our project, Universal Faith: Catholicism for Teens. What is Universal Faith? Why, it’s a movement–in a world where faith is dying, and people are leaving the Church more and more because they’re misinformed, we want to change that. We want to provide young Catholics and curious Christians with strong answers about the Faith, promote religious unity through dialogue, and help everyone realize that they can become saints–that it is the goal for everyone–and it’s worth the struggle.

Already planned are courses where we will be discussing the Youcat. What is Youcat? It’s the Catechism for young people, a fantastic book that every teen Catholic should have–and the Pope asked us to form study groups around it. He asked us to use the Internet as a form of evangelization, and that’s part of our mission.

Among other things, we have a series on contemporary music and the meanings behind lyrics that we hear on the radio every day. We’re going to explain the Mass. We’re going to have series on marriage and the true meaning behind the holy Sacrament. We’re going to have a series (hosted by myself) based on the 90-day devotional Pure by Rebecca St. James, who–though not a Catholic–has helped me greatly with the issue, and I feel her message is something all teenagers need to hear. If you don’t have copies of the books we’ll be reviewing, you’re okay–we’ll try to make the series as accessible as possible.

It’s endearing to see so many fellow Catholic teenagers stepping up to explain the Faith we know and love with their own words. We’re not theologians and we’re certainly going to learn a lot more in our lives as we continue living them, however, if everyone had the attitude of not explaining because we’re not experts, then nobody would ever learn about the Church at all.

Our mission is consecrated to the Twin Hearts of Jesus and Mary, so under their protection we hope to guide people to the Truth and into the safety of Jesus’ redeeming love.

Non-Catholics are by no means excluded from the mission. I mentioned above that we’re interested in inter-religious dialogue; I rather prefer to call it inter-religious friendship. The things we’ll be teaching are above all Christian, and especially the messages on purity have to get out to the whole world. Once a month, we’ll be hosting a guest blog post by a non-Catholic, based on our belief that every branch of Christianity has value before the Lord, and silencing them won’t help the world at all. If you have a tough question about Catholicism, ask it and we’ll tackle it as friends. We don’t debate here; we discuss. If a comment thread appears to be turning hostile, it will be stopped. We are friends in Christ, brothers and sisters, and we are called to love one another.

As I tour through history and introduce people to important figures in the progression of Christianity, we’ll find that we agree on as many things as we disagree on. With friends who aren’t Catholic, we hope to find a point of friendship and understanding, and be the generation that finally tears down the wall between Catholicism and Protestantism, so that instead of tense acknowledgement of one another we may become friends as we wait joyfully for the coming of Christ.

There will also be book reviews and, hopefully, we will start a book club!

Finally, I pray that everyone reading this will have a blessed Christmas with their friends and family this year, no matter where you live or what you believe. Together, we will discover the treasure of what Jesus left us to care for–and take up the responsibility of caring for her in this time of growing atheism and unrest. Let’s be the generation of hope. Let’s be the generation of love. Let’s be the generation of Universal Faith.

God Bless,
-Mariella Hunt
Visit my personal blog here.