This weekend marks the beginning of Advent for Christians around the world. It is a time of anticipation and preparation for the birth of Jesus.
In the timeframe from Thanksgiving, where we've stopped and reflected on our many blessings, to Christmas, where we eagerly await the birth of a savior, Advent helps set the tone of weekly reminders about our own walk from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, our own journey from the manger to the cross.
In this Advent season I found Pope Francis' address to Catholics across the world this week interesting, impressive and inspiring. I believe many readers as well, regardless of their faith, have to be intrigued by Pope Francis and his plans.
I personally am not Catholic. Still, I find Pope Francis to share many core beliefs and challenges that I also embrace in my walk with God.
What I liked particularly in this week's "apostolic exhortation" is his concern for the needy of the world. In my words, he basically shared that if Catholics are going to "talk the talk," then they also must be ready to "walk the walk."
"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he said.
While his words were directed to Catholics, the same is true for Christians worldwide as well. It's hard to meet people looking for hope from inside a warm building. If we desire to share the hope we've found with others looking for answers, we need to meet them on their turf and territory, not ours.
"An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral," he said.
And that is so true. If it is hope for tomorrow that we as Christians have to share - good news in its purest and simplest of forms - then we need to reflect that in our attitude and expression.
"More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at the door people are starving."
How can you not be motivated by those words?
What I admire most about Pope Francis is that he understands that by delivering an address such as that this week, his words are every bit as applicable to him as they are his 1.2 billion worldwide congregational flock.
Earlier this month the pope was photographed in a long embrace with a man suffering from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that left the man disfigured with tumors covering his entire body, including his face. Pope Francis didn't hesitate at all in comforting the man - Vinicio Riva - who then buried his head in Pope Francis' chest.
While many would have hesitated at even acknowledging Riva, Pope Francis didn't give it a second thought.
Pope Francis has set the bar for all of us. I'm inspired this Christmas season by his example. Are you?