Advent - Weekday Reflections -3

First Sunday of Advent

 
Time to wake up

Today’s Gospel calls us to enter into a time of watchful waiting, of preparation or keen awareness. Let us resolve to hold off the holidays for a bit, to tune in to the gospel, to prepare our hearts for the mystery of the Incarnation, the coming of the Prince of Peace.
See! The ruler of the earth shall come; the Lord who will take from us the heavy burden of our exile The Lord will come soon, will not delay. The Lord will make the darkest places bright. We must capture that urgency today in the small flame of our candle. We light the candle because we know that the coming of Christ is tied to our building of the kingdom. Lighting the flame, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, reconciling the divided, praying for the repentant, greeting the lonely and forgotten – doing all these works hastens His coming. 

Waiting

 We light a candle today, a small dim light against a world that often seems forbidding and dark. But we light it because we are a people of hope, a people whose faith is marked by an expectation that we should always be ready for the coming of the Master. The joy and anticipation of this season is captured beautifully in the antiphons of hope from the monastic liturgies:



The Lord will make the darkest places bright. We must capture that urgency today in the small flame of our candle. We light the candle because we know that the coming of Christ is tied to our building of the kingdom. Lighting the flame, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, reconciling the divided, praying for the repentant, greeting the lonely and forgotten – doing all these works hastens His coming.
 

Monday Week 1 (Is 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11)

Can you see it?

Many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)

 
Reflection

What a vision today’s readings offer us—a world in which people yearn to walk in the ways of the Lord, in which “one nation shall not raise the sword against another.” Will we ever live to see it? Only if each of us works towards it. Be a harbinger of the Kingdom today by being a peaceful presence wherever you go.

 
Christ is the ultimate centre of meaning in the universe. It is through Christ that all people will be led to the Father. How can we hope to achieve a world in which all will seek the path of God? Only when men and women are working to achieve the unity that Christ’s redemption promises us.

 
Tuesday Week 1 (Is 11:1-10; Lk 10:21-24)

 
What we have seen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. (Isaiah 11:6)


Reflection

The old joke about this passage is that the leopard might lie down with the kid, but the kid won’t get much sleep. We chuckle at this because Isaiah gives us an image that goes against all our experience and expectations. Take note: the kingdom of God will not be how we expect it! Assumptions about natural friends and enemies are not true in the kingdom of God. What is the modern, urban equivalent of Isaiah’s pastoral image of lamb and wolf? Black and white folks breaking bread and worshipping together? A teenage delinquent and an older person sharing a cup of coffee? "The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb…"


Jesus tells us today to count our blessings: We have seen and heard what kings longed for. The peace of God has come to live among us! We have only to open our hearts to the work of grace in our lives. We have only to turn to our Lord for help.


Wednesday Week 1  (Is 25:6-10a; Mt 15:29-37)


Following in their footsteps

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. (Matthew 14: 19-20)


Reflection

During Advent we always consider the past, present, and future dimensions of Jesus’ coming. Jesus came to us at Bethlehem; He is risen and present in the world today; we look forward to His second coming. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, all these dimensions of time are also present. Jesus fed the people on the hillside that day, but He also prefigured the Eucharistic banquet, as well as the eternal banquet to which we are all invited. How are we to make this miracle real in the present? Just as Jesus asked the disciples that day in Galilee to distribute the food, it is our duty to act as the hands of Jesus today, bringing His gifts and presence to others.


Jesus’ invitation to Peter and Andrew, to James and John, is one he continually issues to all: Will you follow me? Will you join me in my mission? If we say yes we can count on having our lives turned upside down—and enriched beyond measure. Don’t hoard your unique wealth. Share it with others, in Jesus’ name, through daily acts of kindness.


Thursday Week 1 (Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)


Check those foundations

A nation of firm purpose You keep in peace; in peace for its trust in You. Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26: 3-4)


Reflection

We cannot eliminate upsets and anxiety from our lives, but Advent is a good time to slow down and remember where we should look for stability and peace. Throughout these weeks of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the Scriptures for our liturgies tell us again and again to turn to God, to build our house on the rock of Jesus. Only there we will find peace.

Of course we all want to be like the wise man who builds his house on rock: solid goals, clear sense of direction, eyes on the prize. But how easy it is to get lost along the way, to become drenched in the consumerism that can so easily seize us at this time of year! Search your soul today for signs of crumbling foundations, and begin any repair work that is needed.


Friday Week 1 (Is 29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31)


I can't keep it in!

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed (Him), crying out, "Son of David, have pity on us!" When He entered the house, the blind men approached Him and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" "Yes, Lord," they said to Him. Then He touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith." And their eyes were opened. (Matthew 9:27-30)


Reflection

Many people scoff at the idea of miracles. Unwilling to believe that Jesus could restore the sight of the blind when He walked on earth, they are unwilling to see the miracles that Jesus continues to work today. If we are open to the guiding touch of God’s hand and willing to discover His plan for our lives, miracles will happen. What prevents us from seeing and being a part of God’s miracles? Would we rather be blind?


The story of the two blind men cured is the story of all of us. We blindly go through life, missing the real story of love as we struggle to be Number One. But the One who saves can give each of us sight, if we are only willing to have faith. And when we see, how can we help but tell the world?


Sat.day Week 1 (Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt. 9:35-10:1. 5a, 6-8)


Moving beyond pity

The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater (like the light of seven days). On the day the Lord binds up the wounds of His people, He will heal the bruises left by His blows. (Isaiah 30:26)


Reflection

God, while His ways are still mysterious to us, is not on the sidelines of our lives. Just as Isaiah predicted, He has come, in Jesus, to bind up the hurt of His people, and through Jesus’ presence is still active in the world.


Jesus was moved with pity at the sight of the “troubled and abandoned” he saw. How can we not also be moved as the haunting eyes and faces cross our TV screens—the dazed victims of tsunamis and earthquakes, the helpless innocents caught in war zones, the lost in our cities? To take in their images is one thing; to be moved to action by becoming one of Jesus’ labourers is another. How will you join his labour force?


Second Sunday of Advent


Take a deep breath

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people.
He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us.
He is the Saviour of us all.
O Lord,
let your blessing come upon us as we light the first and second (purple) candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation.
May He come quickly and not delay.
We ask this in His holy name. Amen.


Waiting

 We light a candle today, a small dim light against a world that often seems forbidding and dark. But we light it because we are a people of hope, a people whose faith is marked by an expectation that we should always be ready for the coming of the Master. The joy and anticipation of this season is captured beautifully in the antiphons of hope from the monastic liturgies:

See! The ruler of the earth shall come,  the Lord who will take from us the heavy burden of our exile
The Lord will come soon, will not delay.
The Lord will make the darkest places bright.
We must capture that urgency today in the small flame of our candle. We light the candle because we know that the coming of Christ is tied to our building of the kingdom. Lighting the flame, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, reconciling the divided, praying for the repentant, greeting the lonely and forgotten – doing all these works hastens His coming.


As we long for Jesus and the peace he promises, the words of consolation Isaiah offers today are timely. They are soothing words: comfort, tenderness, glad tidings. The Lord we await, the Lord we are promised, is one who, like a shepherd, feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms. How can we model this same good news to a society that so often reveres power and strength? Consider this your job description during this Second Week of Advent—at home, at the office, at your parish. Get ready for some real work!

Monday Week II (Is 35: 1-10; Lk 5:17-26)


‘Rise and walk’

Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; With divine recompense He comes to save you. (Isaiah 35: 4)


Reflection

In a world where political instability threatens long established order, where crime in our country seems out of control and unstoppable, there seems to be plenty to be afraid of. Isaiah reminds us that God’s power is beyond anything on this earth that could frighten us. "Be strong" and "fear not" this Advent. Is having a frightened heart different that just being afraid? The kind of fear we have in our hearts is usually fear for people we love. God’s care encompasses them as well. Trust God’s power.


We’ve heard the call to prepare the way of the Lord. Now it gets more personal. As we hear the story of the paralyzed one, surely we see ourselves on the stretcher. We have a thousand paralyzing reasons not to embrace the message of peace. Jesus cuts through all of them and commands us to walk.


Tuesday Week II (Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)


Recovering from loss

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; the abode where the jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus. (Isaiah 35: 5-7)


Reflection

In Advent we celebrate the miraculous transformations Isaiah talks about: the lame leaping and streams of water bursting forth in the desert. We also celebrate seemingly ordinary events, the birth of two babies, John the Baptist and Jesus, that are part of the unfolding of God’s salvation plan. In every event of our lives, God is there, with His mercy and love and purpose. God desires that all should feel His mercy and love just as the desert sands would experience the overflowing spring.


Who of us hasn’t been—or felt—lost? Whether we have a childhood memory of momentary separation from a parent, a teenage recollection of not fitting in or an adult sense of being adrift, feelings of pain and sadness can surface. We are all the lost sheep of whom Jesus speaks today. But he welcomes and seeks our return home. What “lost sheep” can you take into the fold of your family today?


Wednesday Week II (Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)


My yoke is easy

Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden light." (Matthew 11:28-30)


Reflection

Are there burdens I can let go of? Sometimes we make other people’s problems our own. What burdens that are not my own can I give to God? Remember the old phrase, "Let go and let God." But, at the same time Jesus offers comfort, He asks us to take on His yoke. To be "yoked" to Jesus means that we must walk in step with Him. If we are in step with Jesus, then we can hear any burden that comes our way. Jesus, and the graces we receive through His Church, share the load every step of the way.


Here is a message for all of those burdened by the guilt of inaction in the face of destruction around the world: people in poverty, people at war, people in need. Jesus tells us to step ahead and act. He promises us to be with us, for the yoke, with him beside us, is easy.


Thursday Week II (Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15):

Immaculate Conception

You name it

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it be force. (Matthew 11:12)


Reflection

Our world will never be bliss. We can say with Matthew, that from the days of John the Baptist until now, that God’s kingdom suffers violence. That is why we celebrate Advent over and over. We reassert that the violence we suffer in this world is not the norm, but only a temporary condition. That mystery of our faith is proclaimed each time we celebrate the Eucharist: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. We are grounded in this present world, but look to the world to come.


 “Be it done to me according to your word.” We can all too easily recite the words Mary proclaimed to the angel Gabriel. God doesn’t ask of us the great things asked of Mary. But he does yearn for our “Yes! Yes, you name it!” What are we doing for God and our neighbors that helps bring about a Kingdom that will have no end?


Friday Week II (Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)


What’s our excuse?

Thus says the Lord, you redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence. (Isaiah 48:17-19)


Reflection

The use of water as a metaphor of God, or for any good thing, is common in Hebrew Scriptures. Who should know more about the preciousness of water than a desert people like the Israelites?


Isaiah says our prosperity will be like a river. Have we let God’s love flow over us like a river, or are we stingy when we imagine it? Do we imagine God’s love as a trickle or a torrent?

Advent calls us to prepare the way of the Lord, to open our hearts to the work of God among us. Yet there are so many things competing! And as Christmas approaches, things won’t get any lighter. Stop and consider: How can I be sure that I am preparing the way of the Lord today?


Saturday Week II (Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13)


Missing the point

Then the disciples asked Him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17: 10-13)


Reflection

Some among those who followed Jesus would not believe that He was the Messiah. They were waiting for the reappearance of Elijah, who Scripture said must return before the coming of the Messiah. In the same way, many of us have set up obstacles that prevent us from living as if the Messiah has already come.
What are we waiting for? What obstacles have we set up to prevent us from living as if our Savior has already come?


It takes the disciples a while to understand what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel. Where do we fail to hear not just the words of Jesus but also the heart of his message? Listen closely to Jesus today—not just to his words but to the challenging message behind them.


Third Sunday of Advent


The path is clear

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people. He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of us all. O Lord,
let your blessing come upon us as we light  two (purple) candles and the third (pink) of this wreath. May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation. May He come quickly and not delay. We ask this in His holy name. Amen.


Rejoicing

"(The desert) will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song." "Rejoice in the Lord always!" "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!"


The Scriptures for the Third Sunday of Advent proclaim their message in no uncertain terms: Rejoice! Joy is all around us and our celebration of Advent calls us to discover it. The joy that the Scripture passages speak about is not a joy that equates with hilarious laughter. It is a joy that comes from a security with our God, those around us, and our place in the world. It is the joy Isaiah describes when he writes, "I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul." It is a joy that cannot be bought or obtained from artificial highs. It is a joy that comes from our living faith in a living God.

It is the joy we feel as we approach the birth of our Savior and remember the awesome beauty of what happened on that cold Bethlehem night.


Rejoice!

Being without light is one of the most unsettling of experiences for those of us who have become accustomed to living with the gift of electricity. To be in the dark is to be disoriented, without a sense of direction. Today’s readings offer us a clear path—just the path we need as we edge toward Christmas. It is one of prayer, gratitude, hope and goodness. Could we ask for clearer directions in the midst of these frenetic days when we can so easily lose our moorings?


Monday Week III (Is 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)


Playing games

When He had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached Him as He was teaching and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?" (Matthew 21:23)


Reflection

The question of authority always followed Jesus. Different groups and individuals would try to ask Him difficult questions to trick Him and make Him look stupid in front of the crowds who listened to His teaching. It is clear that Jesus derived His authority from an unshakable inner knowledge of His relationship to the Father. Do we have confidence in our relationship with God so that we can speak the truth as we see it? Or do we expect the Church or some other authority to speak for us?


Today Jesus catches the Pharisees in their own game. As they get caught not saying anything for fear of saying the wrong thing, Jesus says he’ll have none of it. We are challenged today to sharpen our focus on what is important: the coming of Jesus and our challenge to conform our lives to his call.


Tuesday Week III (Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)


Mixed messages

For then I will change and purify the lips of the people, that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord. (Zephaniah 3:9)


Reflection

Zephaniah’s prophetic dream of unity seems no closer to reality today than when it was 2500 years ago. Even though our world enjoys many modern technological advantages over the world of Zephaniah, it seems that there is not technological "fix" for the human heart.


"Change" and "pure lips" require personal conversion. What have I done to promote "one accord" in the world? No matter how we might view ourselves, all people are equal in the sight of God. We are all His servants.


Ouch. How many times must we be reminded of our potential—our gift? — for hypocrisy! We hear it yet again from Zephaniah, who warns against “insolent” prophets and “braggarts.” Few of us find such people appealing, but the alternative—humility, pure truth—is so difficult. Consider: Why do we so often try to get by with the easy stuff, as if Jesus doesn’t know us at our deepest level? Lord, transform our hearts!


Wednesday Week III (Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23)


Signs of the Messiah

Turn to Me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other! (Isaiah 45:22)


Reflection

We need to be reminded, just like the Israelite people in the desert who built a golden calf, that it is God who is God, not the idols we create. It seems that times are more subtle now. People melting down their jewelry to fashion an idol in a public place is not a common sight in our day. But we do, as a people, flock to certain places and events as if they were important: television sets, soap operas, celebrities. Do I live my day-to-day life as if a supernatural being is my God? Or do I live as if some earthly pleasure or diversion is? Where is my energy expended? Where is my time spent? Where do I turn?


Could this be the one? People of good will are searching, and we hear from the Gospel that this indeed is the one we’ve been awaiting. How do we know? The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. What are we waiting for?

Thursday Week III (Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)


Can we get real?

Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken My love shall never leave you nor My covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:10)


Reflection

Sometimes we take God’s promises for granted. We have listened to them so many times that their meaning makes no impact on us. But consider: "Though the mountains leave their place…" God’s love is so steadfast; there is no event that could diminish it. There is no action on our part by which He would consider us unworthy. Have we shared this good news with anyone lately?

Jesus warns us to get real about his Kingdom and to listen to John the Baptist, who announced its arrival. How are we using our time to prepare for the one that John has promised? Are we rooted in reality, or in the make-believe promises offered us of what Christmas is all about?


Friday Week III (Is 56:1-3, 6-8; Jn 5:33-36)


Sent by God

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with the child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel" which means, "God is with us," When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home. (Matthew 1:22-24)


Reflection

Joseph’s commitment to Mary and to the child in her womb caused confusion and pain. He was a devout and honorable man, determined to do what was right. He trusted what he heard God say in his dream and obeyed the command of the angel.


In our own lives our commitment to Jesus can cause discomfort, confusion, even pain. We must depend on God as did Mary and Joseph.


When we stand up for peace, we must do so with the confidence that peace is the will of God. People in the Gospels are always seeking Jesus’ credentials, and he assures them he is the real ticket. When he calls us to be God’s peacemakers, against war, against poverty and injustice, we are given an authentic mission.


December 17 (Gn 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:17)


The Jesus of history

But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers toward children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare people fit for the Lord." (Luke 1:13-17)


Reflection

Luke tells the beautiful story of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Have I "prepared the way" in the heart of a loved one or acquaintance for Jesus’ coming? Have I been a "John?"


In just over a week we celebrate the birth of Jesus—yes, the sweet-faced infant but also the Messiah who had a family that went back 14 generations. The older we get, the more we appreciate learning about our family tree, about the history of those who went before us. But we can lose track of some of those branches. Resolve to contact a lost or forgotten family member.


Fourth Sunday of Advent

What message do we hear?

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)


Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)


Today is a day of messages, a day when God’s incarnation is announced to the world. Like the drama in today’s Gospel, the Lord’s saving action is announced to each of us. As evangelists, messengers of the Good News, we each are challenged, in turn, to announce God’s presence to our hurting world. The presence of God among us is the gift that allows each of us to be heralds of peace.


December 18 (Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-25)

Sharpen up!

These final days before Christmas, “late Advent,” call us to focus all the more. Now is the season when our attention is the most distracted by last-minute gift-buying and Christmas parties. Yet our faith tells us to slow down and prepare our spirits for the Lord’s coming. Let us be mindful of that.


December 19 (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a; Lk 1:5-25)


The forest and the trees

There is a wall of flesh before the eyes of John, who yet perceives and hails his King. It is Our Lady's painful bliss to bring before mankind the Glory of the skies. Her cousin feels her womb's sweet burden rise and leap with joy, and she comes forth to sing, with trembling mouth, her words of welcoming. She knows her hidden God, and prophesies.


Reflection

What did St. Zechariah, father of John the Baptist,  learn during his nine months of silence?

As Christmas draws ever nearer, our thoughts can easily turn to the demands that just won’t go away: last-minute shopping, mailing a few more cards, planning menus for meals with family and special guests. In today’s Gospel Luke tells the story of the birth of John the Baptist. We know full well what comes after that, but we can so easily get overwhelmed. Make time today for an act of kindness—one you don’t really have time for.


December 20 (Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)


The Lord is with you

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. [Luke 1:27 -31]


Reflection

What should Christians look like to the world in which we live? How could other people know by our words and actions that we are followers of Christ? What should make us distinctive and stand out from non-Christians? How can we be the light of the world and the salt of the earth as our Lord says we should be?


This is the week of annunciation, when the Lord’s coming presence among us is announced to the People of God. Our longing for peace will be fulfilled. But the world did not understand the peace of Jesus when it came. We pray to understand Jesus’ peace and to bring it to the world.

December 21 (Sg 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45)


A journey of faith

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals. (Zephaniah 3:17)


Reflection

The reading from Zephaniah expresses in poetic language the boundless love God has for each of us. In some translations the words say "God will exult over you!" It is surely God’s desire that someday we will all be with Him in heaven. No matter what happened before, God is ready each moment to show us this love. The words of Zephaniah and our celebration of Christmas should bring us to a deeper awareness of how profound is God’s love for us.


Our thoughts turn to Mary today. How could they not as she prepares for the birth of Our Saviour? How many more days, how many more hours she must be thinking as she sets out, in haste, to visit her cousin Elizabeth? Put aside your own cares. Who can you visit today who needs your presence and your utter trust?

December 22 (1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)


The world upside-down

And Mary said, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord: my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed." (Luke 1:46)


Reflection

Mary says that she is lowly, and also that all will call her blessed. How can both of these things be true? Mary’s lowliness was transformed by her faith in God’s promise as given to her by the angel. Through this faith she became the most exalted of God’s servants. Do we let God work with and transform our lives? Or, do we use our own "lowliness" as an excuse for inaction? Christmas is a beautiful time for re-inviting God into our lives and letting His power transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Today we pray along with Mary, the Mother of God, her magnificat. It is a prayer of praise, of awe at the power of God to steer history in God’s direction. The lowly are important in God’s eyes. The rich go away empty-handed. What is God telling us today?


December 23 (Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)


The time is near

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)


Reflection

For children, these last days of waiting are probably the hardest. The goal is in sight now, but it is still far enough away to make the wait seem endless.

When we are grown, waiting for Christmas is not a major problem. Nevertheless, as the day approaches even grownups feel the urgency in the air. As we anticipate the celebration of Christmas, let us look around us. Are those around us anticipating joy and happiness or loneliness and depression?

For Elizabeth, the time has arrived. She gives birth to a son, who is named John. Can the birth of Jesus be far behind? These are days filled with blessings and promise. Find the time to slow down and spend peaceful time with your family. Don’t count the hours that remain. Savour them.


Christmas Eve

Waiting is over


Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited and brought redemption to His people. (Luke 1:68)


Reflection

As soon as Jesus was born, visitors began to come. First it was the shepherds. Then the wise men. Then Simeon and Anna. Then even the soldiers of Herod were sent to find Him. Together these visitors represent the people of every nation, coming by every possible path and conveyance to see Christ.  These words of Zechariah’s Canticle, cited above, remind us that it was impossible to contain God in heaven. Through Jesus, He "visited" and "brought redemption" to us. He continues through Jesus and through us to dwell in our world today. When people look at us, do they think of Jesus?


Now our four weeks of preparation come to an end. Our practice of waiting, watching, listening, has all been for one purpose: to make room in our hearts for the “here-yet-still-coming” Prince of Peace. As much as we let the Peaceful Lord fill our lives, we take his mission of peace to our families, to our communities, to our world.

Christmas Day


The dawn of peace

"The Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love." (John 1:14)


The actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown. The Gospels do not record it and there is not any early tradition to identify it. Scholars identify the approximate year as sometime between 8 - 5 BC and the season as probably early spring. The feast day was placed where it was, in all likelihood, to supplant the practice of the winter solstice festival among pagan converts by pointing to Christ as the true light who comes into the world. The Western Church emphasizes the celebration of the Nativity or Birth of Jesus on December 25, while the Eastern Church celebrates His manifestation to the Magi on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6.
 

The word Christmas was derived from the Old English Cristes Maesse or "Mass of Christmas." Over the centuries it has become a comprehensive word including both the religious traditions and the secular traditions.


In North America, the early immigrants brought their different Christmas traditions. The Germans brought the Christmas tree, the Irish contributed the lights in windows of homes, Catholic immigrants brought Midnight Mass and everyone had their own Christmas carols.