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Christmas is fast approaching, and now we must ready ourselves for receiving our Lord. We must "make straight the path" in our lives, like John the Baptist before us, or we will find ourselves unprepared. Like John, we are questioned on all sides as to our identity. Our challengers are society and the media, and they seek to confuse us and make us stray from the path that leads to Christ. They are unwilling to comprehend the sacrifice it takes to find Christ, and they instead hope that we will join them in fixating on the material world.

All aspects of our media are driven by the promotion of base desires, and those in charge make fortunes off this corruption. This year's Grammy nominees are songs that glorify drug addiction or describe desperate attempts at finding a romantic partner. Recent movies are filled with the same and promote violence. Even a movie supposedly about Moses cares more for bloodshed than reverence to God's law.

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What are impressionable children to think when they are told to worship at the temple of the flesh instead of the sanctity of the Church? They are misled, and they soon fall into depression when they realize that the lifestyle they are told to pursue is meaningless and unsatisfying. They are used by a hedonistic society that seeks fleeting pleasure, unable to seek something greater. Self-destruction is the only possible outcome. But we are able to resist this corrupting influence.

Speaking on Gaudete Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the true joy found only in Christ: "The human heart wants joy. Every family, all people aspire to happiness. But what is the joy that Christians are called to live and witness? It is the one that comes from God's closeness, from his presence in our lives. When Jesus entered history, with his birth in Bethlehem, humanity received the seed of the Kingdom of God, like a field that receives the seed of the coming harvest. You no longer need to look elsewhere! Jesus came to bring joy to all and forever. This is not only a joy hoped for or put off in heaven, but a real and palpable joy in the here and now, because Jesus himself is our joy, and our peace."

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There are those in the media, with their history of misquoting Pope Francis, who might wish to claim that Christ leads to only one of many joys. However, the pope makes this exclusivity clear: "Is there any joy without Jesus? No! Good! He is alive, he is the Risen One, and works in us and among us, especially with the Word and the sacraments." There are no secular alternatives to Christ, and material possessions cannot replace spiritual fulfillment.

Although entertainment can temporarily distract us from our problems, it can never provide us with our soul's true desire. Pleasure is fleeting, not everlasting. True happiness, true joy, is found only in the hope provided by Christ's birth and resurrection. We must not forget that Jesus is the reason for the Advent and Christmas season.

Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

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