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Advent: December 23

 GOD IS GRACIOUS

Introduction

Indeed, “God is gracious.” This is the meaning of the name John. We are told today about the birth of the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist. We remember the coming of the Savior and how a special messenger of God had to prepare the hearts of people for the coming of the Savior. But our Savior, Jesus, came long ago. How much are we living as people who are saved? How much do we enter into God’s plan to save our world? How much do we prepare Jesus’ coming into the hearts of people today? Opening Prayer

Lord, our God,
in this time of waiting,
you must still be waiting for us,
how we respond to the coming of your Son Jesus
in our hearts and in our world.
Make us people of hope,
not people of the past,
but men and women,
the young and the children too,
who want to see Jesus, our Savior,
alive and active among us.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Reading 1: MAL 3:1-4, 23-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
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.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner's fire,
or like the fuller's lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Lo, I will send you
Elijah, the prophet,
Before the day of the LORD comes,
the great and terrible day,
To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,
and the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike
the land with doom.

Responsorial Psalm: 25:4-5AB, 8-9, 10 AND 14

R. (see Luke 21:28) Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: LK 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
"No. He will be called John."
But they answered her,
"There is no one among your relatives who has this name."
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name,"
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
"What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him."

Intercessions

– Lord Jesus, give the grace of faith to people who keep groping in the dark for something or someone like you to give meaning to their lives, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, give the grace of peace to the country and the people where you where born and where the center is the city of peace, Jerusalem, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, give the grace of liberation to people captive in their evil and from oppression, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts

Lord, our God,
you are always coming
to renew us, to be gracious to us.
Make us attentive and eager
to keep welcoming your Son, Jesus Christ,
as one of us, here and now,
living in us, active in us,
going with us in our pilgrim way
as our Lord who leads us to you,
our living God, for ever and ever.

Prayer after Communion

God of our hope,
when we hear the word of your Son
and sit at his table,
we realize how often deaf we still are
to his word of life and his love.
Make us hear him
when he knocks at the door of our hearts,
dispose us to let him enter
and to let him make us
messengers of his integrity and peace.
For he is our Lord for ever.

Blessing

At the birth of John the Baptist, his father Zechariah praised God for giving him a son who was to do great things for God. We too, give praise to God for giving us his Son Jesus, and in him the grace of forgiveness and life. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

Our redemption is near at hand. Advent draws to a close; Christmas is two days away. In our scriptures today, the spirit of expectation runs high. Malachi speaks of the return of Elijah to prepare God’s people for the end, following which the Lord himself will repossess his temple. At the same time, the end is a mixed blessing. It will spell reconciliation and peace for some, as fathers and sons are reunited in a spirit of accord, while others will experience purification and refinement as the wheat is separated from the chaff, even among the priestly class. Though the grace-filled moment is offered to all, some will remain hard of heart and refuse to respond to that grace. The justice of God is a two-way street.
Elijah appears in the figure of John the Baptist. He is the forerunner of the Lord, preceding the latter’s arrival in the temple (cf. Luke 2:22-38). His name itself is God given, as Zechariah and Elizabeth affirm. The name signifies “God’s favor,” a clear allusion to what the birth of Jesus would mean for the world. The infancy narratives are replete with signs: Mary’s virginal conception, Elizabeth’s delayed pregnancy, Zechariah’s loss of speech. The signs rise to a crescendo in the birth at Bethlehem and its significance for the good of the world.
Conversion plays an important part in the Christmas message. Christmas for some people is like any other holiday, even though a bit more festive. Its true religious significance is largely lost. “Happy holidays” replaces “Merry Christmas.” Others find their way to church only at this time of year, though even this minimal spiritual participation hints that something is stirring in their hearts. For others, the time speaks volumes, identified with John’s name, God’s great favor. The words of Titus resound: “The grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). Yet gratitude never wants to disparage anyone. A change of heart can come at any moment. And when it does Emmanuel will be there to help.

Points to Ponder

Christmas: “the favor of God”
Gratitude versus lukewarmness
Christian symbols of faith
Family reconciliation.