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As Christians, we see Advent as the special time to prepare for the Infant King at Christmas. Where the secular world celebrates with snowmen and Santa Claus, we recognize Christ’s birthday as a special moment in salvation history. We all know the beautiful story of the angels, the shepherds, and the three kings from the east who came to worship the lowly babe in the manger in Bethlehem, but how often do we stop and think about the importance of the feast of Christmas and the significance of Christ coming to us as a tiny child?

Every day in America 4,000 lives are lost through abortion. These innocent, helpless children are in much the same state as our Lord when He came down from heaven. Christmas is the most pro-life holiday of the year, yet many times pro-lifers become distracted by Christmas lights and the busyness of family traditions. Here are some ideas to help you and your family focus on the culture of life at Christmas this year.

Remember Mary’s fiat

Imagine the Blessed Mother, humble, young, and troubled by the angel’s presence at the Annunciation. When the Angel Gabriel told Mary about what was going to happen, she could have said no. Like everyone else in this world, Mary was given free will—the freedom to choose His divine plan or to refuse.

For many women today, saying yes to God’s gift of a child and continuing an unexpected pregnancy is a very difficult choice. Mary embraced God’s will completely, even though she knew that her society would not treat her well because of her sacrifice.

We all have the opportunity to say yes to God when it comes to life, whether that involves welcoming a new baby despite difficult circumstances, saying yes to helping aging parents or grandparents, or standing up for someone even when it means our friends or coworkers might ostracize us.

We can follow Mary’s example by trusting completely in God’s will when trials and sacrifices arise. In order to practice saying yes to God’s will, use this Advent as a time of preparation and sacrifice. Some families use the tradition of offering up small sacrifices for the Infant King by placing a piece of straw in the empty manger every time each family member practices obedience, self-control, patience, or self-denial. Give the gift of your sacrifices to the Christ child as a treasured birthday present.

Reflect on the empty manger

The period of waiting before Christ’s birth is a special time. As you decorate your house, remember to leave the manger empty until Christmas. When we see Mary, Joseph, the shepherd, and angels gathered around the empty manger, we are reminded that even from the first moment of His birth, Christ touched so many people.

We are also reminded of the fact that Jesus began His life in lowly circumstances. The empty manger is a sign of preparation for the coming of Christ—a reminder of God’s promise to us.

As you gaze on the empty manger, think about what would have happened to the world if the manger had remained empty. What if Mary had not had the courage to say yes to God’s plan? Some pro-life groups host “empty manger” Christmas caroling outside abortion clinics to remind women that Mary made the difficult choice to trust in God’s providence and to encourage women with unexpected pregnancies to imitate Mary’s trust.

Pro-Life Action League has detailed instructions on how to organize an “empty manger” Christmas caroling event in your community.

 Pray for an end to the violence of abortion

December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day that we commemorate the first martyrs for Christ. After Jesus was born, King Herod heard from the Three Wise Men about a new king who had come to Bethlehem. Filled with jealousy and fear, King Herod ordered that every male child in Bethlehem under the age of two was to be put to death.

An angel warned St. Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt, so the Christ child was saved. But the other baby boys in Bethlehem perished in the massacre of the Holy Innocents, described in Matthew 2:13-23.

All human beings are precious, but Mary and Joseph understood that the smallest, most helpless of all human beings deserve special care. Joseph acted quickly to save Baby Jesus from Herod’s wrath. Through Joseph’s example, we can learn how to respond quickly to protect the lives of innocent children from the slaughter of abortion.

Serve your community

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reminds His followers that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came into this worldnot as a powerful warrior but as a lowly childto be our king. In the same spirit of humility and gentleness, we are called to serve our neighbor.

The foundation of the culture of life is respect for the human person from creation until death. And helping our brothers and sisters in need from our own community is one of the many ways we can bring Christ’s light into the world. Christmas is a special time of year to remember families who are homeless, hungry, or struggling during the cold winter months.

We can support our brothers and sisters in need this Christmas season in many ways:

  • Organize your pro-life club to work at a soup kitchen or food pantry before, during, or after Christmas.
  • Volunteer at a local pregnancy resource center.
  • Go Christmas caroling at a local nursing home or in your neighborhood to bring joy to the elderly.
  • Offer to shovel snow at an elderly neighbor’s house, or babysit for a single mom so that she can do her Christmas shopping.
  • Host a baby item drive for moms in need within your community, or hold a baby blanket making event at your home or parish.
  • Participate in the giving tree program at your church or school and buy a gift for a child in need.

Remember that no sacrifice is too small and no service too great when we are helping our communities in the name of Jesus.

There is so much we can learn from living out the culture of life this Christmas season. By following the examples of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we understand how we should respond to God’s call and how we can live our everyday lives in the service of God.

As we approach the sacred feast of Christmas, add new traditions to your Advent preparation and take some time to reflect on the culture of life and the birth of Christ.