Who Is On Your Christmas List This Sunday, Nov. 27, begins the season of Advent in many Christian churches. Advent will last for four weeks and end on Christmas Eve. Many of us are familiar with Advent candles, Advent wreaths and Advent calendars. But what is Advent all about and what part should we play? The translation of Advent from Latin is "coming." And so we are waiting and preparing for a coming during the four weeks of Advent. This coming focuses on the past, as we celebrate when Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. This coming likewise focuses on the future. It focuses on an unknown day in an unknown year when Christ will come again at the end of time and judge whether we are worthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Focusing on the past is fairly straightforward. We set up nativity scenes, we decorate a tree with lights and put a star or an angel on top to remember the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. We observe the tradition of giving to those we love and to those less fortunate. We sing Christmas hymns reminiscent of that first blessed Christmas in Bethlehem. So far, so good. All A's and a few A+’s for the super duper do-gooders. Now on to part two. How do we use the Advent season to prepare for the second coming? We as a people have been commissioned to "love your God with all your heart" and to "love your neighbor as yourself.” If we know not the time of the second coming...Judgment Day...hadn't we better always be prepared? Most of us feel like we get a good grade on the "love your God with all your heart" mandate. What's not to love? He died on the cross for our sins, so that we would have the chance to live the heavenly life someday. He gave us life, complete with a family to love us, He gave some of us adorable children and grandchildren to cherish, He gave us our country, our faith and more material goods than any of us can ever use. He is well and truly loved. All A's and a few A+'s thrown in for the over-achievers. Now the sticky part about loving your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? He is the rest of the folks. That's black, white, Hispanic, Arab. He's Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist and Islamic. It's the blue bloods and the immigrants. It's the LBGT community as well as the straight. It's the guy at work who seldom takes a shower and doesn't use deodorant. It's that coach who wouldn't start your son at first base even though you knew he was better than the starter. It's the brother you had an argument with in 1987 and haven't spoken to since, much to the dismay of your mother. It's the spouse who left you for someone else. It's the friend who wasn't loyal when loyalty was what you needed most. It's the father who wasn't the Ozzie in Ozzie and Harriet. It's the brother-in-law who constantly hits you up for "a loan" and never pays you back. Now here we go, preparing for the second coming. We need to love all these folks as we love ourselves. How does that happen? Those feelings are packed in there, like dirt tramped down on a grave. And we're going to be judged on whether we love these folks as we love ourselves? No A's in this group so far. How do we start digging? One shovelful at a time. A Christmas card might be a good start. Praying for them would help. There has to be a big dose of forgiveness in there somewhere. Or maybe we dig to the bottom...have a talk, offer an olive branch, offer to start over. I think we just got an A, maybe an A+. We'll see how it goes. Let's all get ready. List them, kill them with kindness and check them off. I'm aiming for the big prize. You coming?