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Walking our faith: The most powerful force in the world (column)

It is only fitting that during this season of light, we should encounter angels among us. Pat Hoogheem is my angel.

On Monday, despite a long list of Christmas things to be done, she accompanied me to the Good Samaritan hospital in Denver as I went for surgery on the wrist I broke while cross-country skiing. She returned home with me, and spent the night on the couch so I wouldn't be alone.

That is a gift of the season.

For each of the four weeks of Advent I chose one word to represent a gift of this season of waiting for Christ's arrival and return: hope, peace, joy, and then I saved the best for last, love.

On this darkest winter night, we celebrate a divine spark of light ignited and never extinguished. The moment God’s love became Jesus and we discovered that love grows as it is given and shared, and like God, because it is from God, can never be diminished.

As a student at the University of Michigan, I spent a year trying to decide what I believed in. I went from church to church and read many books and spoke to friends about their faith journey. Ten years later, I joined the Catholic Church.

What brought me into the church was Jesus and his message of love freely given. What keeps me in the Church is Jesus' call to a lifelong relationship that grows more meaningful as I discover the endless depths of his love.

When I read the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ, I discover a message of peace, justice, compassion and caring for each of us, rich and poor, locals and immigrants, old and young. From his humble birth in a manger to an ignoble death on a cross, the King of Kings demonstrated how to live, by becoming one of us.

The birth of Jesus which we celebrate this weekend marks a turning point in the history of mankind. For the first time, we encounter a leader who sought not to conquer but to serve, not to amass riches but to feed the poor.

Our God our Savior revealed the miraculous power of love: That he loved us so much he would forgive us anything and in return offer us everything in heaven and a better way to live here on earth.

Jesus' love is for each of us, no matter where we are, what we have done, he embraces us with a simple and enduring message:

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends…because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will remain — so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is My command to you: Love one another." (John 15:12-17)

On this darkest winter night, we celebrate a divine spark of light ignited and never extinguished. The moment God's love became Jesus and we discovered that love grows as it is given and shared, and like God, because it is from God, can never be diminished.

Jesus' love is freely given to each of us. You can't earn it. Only accept it. Love that fills those places in our hearts we hide from everyone else.

We can strive to live by the example of Jesus' life. But to be transformed by the power of Jesus' love, we must open our hearts and invite him into our lives.

Begin that journey today. Churches throughout Summit County will have many services on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

If the idea of stepping into a church feels uncomfortable, join us tonight at 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. at the Riverwalk Center in the heart of Breckenridge for Christmas Eve Mass. Come in from the cold, join others in Christmas celebration, and experience God's love for you.

It is the most powerful force in the world. From God's love springs compassion to help others, hope when we cannot see the way forward, joy when our heart overflows with pain, and peace when we need rest.

Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we gain true love. A love to fill our hearts for the rest of our lives, never ending, always growing.

Jesus is love, actually. And he loves you.

Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths