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One day a young man in Junior High School and his father were alone together on a fishing trip. They had a lot of time to talk, just the two of them. Out of the clear blue, the son asked, “Dad, what is the toughest thing God ever tried to do?”

The father had no idea what to say, so he asked his son: “What do you think it was?”

His son responded, “I’m taking science in school, so I thought the creation of the universe, with all the galaxies, stars, planets and moons was the hardest thing God ever tried to do. But then in our religion class, we were talking about miracles, especially Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. So I thought that Jesus’ miracles and resurrection might be the toughest thing God ever did.

“Then I thought about it a whole lot more and I decided that no one really knows God very well. So now I think that the toughest thing God ever tried to do is to get us to understand who God is and how much God loves us.”

The father thought for awhile and said: “You’re right. That is the toughest thing God ever tried to do. And there was only one way God could do it. God sent us his own son to be born in a stable and to die for us on a cross.”

This is the message of our three readings today. Zephaniah tells us to “Shout for Joy (Zephaniah 3:14-18). Don’t be afraid of anyone or anything. Why? Because God is right here with us as a mighty Savior.

St. Paul tells us to Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4-7). Let others around you notice how kind you are. Why? Because the Lord is closer to you than you thought possible.

John the Baptist in the Gospel (Luke 3:10-18) tells us: You are only young once, but you can be immature your whole life. As busy as the last two weeks of Advent can be, Advent is the time to grow up and be what God expected you to be in life.

Jesus is born again in you and me when the Holy Spirit plants a seed of care and concern in our mind and heart. Jesus is born again in you and me when we smile at someone who has darted ahead of us in the checkout line. Jesus is born again in you and me when we find the courage to send a Christmas card to someone we had crossed off of our list.

A few years ago it was Christmas Eve and our troops were fighting in Iraq. Some of the troops noticed an orphanage run by the nuns on the outskirts of a village. They decided to go back to their base and return on Christmas morning with toys, candy and games for the children. Mother Superior and the children were thrilled on Christmas morning to see the troops arrive with toys, candy and games all wrapped up.

But one little six-year old girl was in tears and stood all alone in a corner. Mother Superior explained to the soldiers that she had only been there a week and both of her parents had been killed.

One of the soldiers went over to the little girl and gently said, “It’s Christmas morning and we have some wonderful gifts for you. What would you like?”

With eyes filled with tears, the little girl said in a whisper: “I want someone to hold me.”

Wealth is not what you have. Wealth is who you have beside you.

You and I are called to be Jesus to those who are near us.

We are Jesus when we lovingly hold another person tight who is searching for Jesus.

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