Monthly Archives: December 2013

Epiphany – Responding to the Light

Fireworks Galaxy - ngc6946

Study:  When did you experience a moment of profound insight that led you to action?

Pray:  Are there any major decisions or challenges in your life right now?  Pray for the light to see your way, and the courage to carry it out!

Serve:  Is there someone in your life in need of light?  Can you help them understand or give them strength to support their actions?

Epiphany Readings

Think for a moment about all the different ways we respond to light:
* Christmas lights
* Stop and Go lights
* Night lights
* Flashlights
* Candlelight
* Lantern light
* Key chain & Pocket lights
* Car lights
* and many, many, more!

All these lights surround us and help us navigate our everyday activities.  They bring guidance, comfort, joy, understanding, and security to our lives.  Indeed, light is a precious gift that brings meaning and purpose to our world.

Yet it is not enough for light to simply shine upon us; light is the beginning – but it evokes and calls forth a response from us.

Look at it this way.  A stop-and-go traffic light cannot simply be seen; it must be followed and acted upon (or else you are likely to get rear-ended).  Failure to respond to the light leads to difficulty, while those who are guided by the light and act accordingly find their way.

We hear about light in the Gospel today.  The Magi observed the light, and they followed and searched until they understood what it meant.  The light was the beginning; only through their journey and response did they discover the precious gift of Jesus – the Light of the World.

Many saw the light.  It was there in the sky for all to see.  Yet only a few responded and recognized that the starlight was a sign from God.  Thus, it was not enough just to see; for indeed we celebrate those who both saw and acted upon the light.

It is our belief that God continues to shine upon us today.  The Light of Christ burns brightly – in the Scriptures, the Sacraments, moral teachings, our conscience, our prayer, and the comfort and support of family and friends.

Yet even as God is revealed to our world the light alone is not enough.  We, too, are invited to act as the Magi and respond to the light.  May we open our eyes and our hearts this day, recognizing the Lord and responding to His Light.


The Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family

Study:  What is going on in my family right now?  What dynamics, concerns, and strengths are we facing?

Pray:  Call upon God’s grace for your family.  Be specific and practical!

Serve:  How can we help bless our families right now?  What can we do to strengthen and unite together as a holy family?

Holy Family Readings

During this holiday season I am amazed at how many people reorganize their schedules and events to accommodate the many family events that happen during this time of the year.  Many people spend long hours on the road, sometimes celebrating Christmas two or three times with different branches of the family tree.

For some people this time of year can be a mixed blessing.  The stress of traveling with uncertain weather, compounded with the hectic expectations of the commercial side of the season, can sometimes lead us to view Christmas as an exercise in frustration.  This frustration is particularly true when we add the unique issues that are part of our own family.

All of us are part of a family.  Some big, others small, some scattered across the globe, others spaced along a couple of city streets.  In our extended families there are people we can’t wait to see, and there may even be some who are difficult to get along with for a conversation.  Within our families there is usually a mixture of joy and sorrow, peace and discomfort, calm and chaos.

Yet like it or not, God has planted us within these groups of people to help us find our place within the larger world.  Our families help define who we are, how we experience life, and what our dreams and hopes are for the future.  With all their strengths and weaknesses, our families help us understand the meaning and purpose of our lives.

The fact that we celebrate the family of Jesus helps us realize that God is present within our families, too.  The “Holy Family” was not perfect.  Hardship and persecution followed them before and after the birth of the baby Jesus.  They struggled and suffered like every other family, celebrating the joys and sorrows that accompany us all through life.

The struggles of the Holy Family help us see that the journey of our own families is not an easy one.  Yet we can take hope that just as God was present to them, so too will the Lord strengthen us.

The feast of the Holy Family can remind us all that God truly walks with us in our own families.  Within the blessings and limitations that exist in our families, we recognize God’s loving touch – shaping our lives and helping us see the “Holy Ones” that God has placed in our midst.


Christmas – The Nativity of the Lord

Nativity

Study:  Reflect on your life right now.  Is there something difficult that needs God’s grace?

Pray:  Take a moment in your prayer to accept the love of Jesus.  Pause on the readings of Christmas and allow his grace to touch your heart.

Serve:  Share the love of Christ with another – a gentle word, a kind deed, and tender thought.

Christmas Eve Readings:    Vigil Mass    Mass at Midnight

Christmas Day Readings    Mass at Dawn    Mass during the Day

The titles are endless:

* King of Kings   * Lord of Lords   * Prince of Peace

* Rod of Jesse   * Key of David   *Desire of Nations

* Wonder Counselor   * God Hero   * Emmanuel

* The Messiah   *Christ the Lord

Yet the Savior of the world did not stand on his title, did not presume his glory, and did not claim power.  He was born homeless in the midst of poverty and the threat of violence.  Simply put, the Lord came into our world in the most humble way – to remind us that nothing, NOTHING is out of reach of God’s saving grace.

Born like all of us as a vulnerable baby, dependent on others, he would grow to teach us about his Father in heaven and how we are called to love and serve.  Again, the Lord did not claim his power, but rather invites us to hear his voice and follow.

Have you heard the bells of Christmas?  Some are tiny ornaments on the tree.  Some are massive that hang in belfries and call us to worship.   Some are on the sleigh.  Others are rung by hand.  In many ways the bells remind us of Jesus – the sound we hear is an invitation to act.

No matter where we have been and what we have done, Jesus Christ comes into our world – in the messy, challenging, difficult, stressful, and chaotic parts of our lives – and he calls us gently and lovingly.  Do we listen?  Do we respond?

He knows us, he shares our nature, and he reaches out.  There is nothing to fear – he understands us better than we understand ourselves – and he loves us completely.  This Christmas let the love of the Savior touch your heart.  Hear his call and respond with love for the Lord and the people God has put in your life today.

Merry Christmas!


4th Advent – Final Preparations

To do list

Study:  Is there anything in my life that is not ready for the coming of Christ?  Do I have any unfinished or unresolved issues that I can address?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for the help and strength to be truly present in the next few days.  Gatherings can be challenging – what do we need from the Lord to help us live as followers of Jesus?

Serve:  Is there someone who you can help who is not ready?  Is there a way that you can support another who is perhaps struggling to prepare?  What good work or kind word can you offer?

4th Advent Readings

This weekend we make the final turn in our Advent season and prepare for Christmas this coming week.  Here are some thoughts to consider as we make our final preparations.

    1.  What are my priorities this week?
– Is it things? (shopping, gifts, etc.)
– Is it safe travel?
– Is it people? (family and friends)
– Is it prayer? (or even the Lord?)

I mention this first because there are many things we WANT to be our top priorities, but we often find that situations and events can be forced upon us.  We sometimes find ourselves reacting to expectations and lose our focus and perspective.

Perhaps a few moments in our own reflection (alone or with others) will help us remember why we are taking the time and effort to celebrate this coming week.  The danger happens when we do not choose our values, but instead let someone else tell us what we are suppose to make important.

    2.  How will I spend my time this holiday?
– with people
– with the Lord in prayer
– at work (I fall in this category!)

Many of us must respond to events outside our control over the next few days:  work, travel, and sometimes awkward situations with other people (a.k.a. – someone you desperately want to avoid).  Time remains our most precious possession; how are we living the gift God gives to us?

    3.  What will be my attitude?

In then end there are very few things which remain entirely in our control.  The weather can change in a matter of hours, roads and travel conditions can become treacherous, and situations can become tense, frustrating, and unhappy.

When we find ourselves less than jolly, how do we express it?  Do we take our stress out on others, or do we take a deep breath and put our faith into practice (you know:  patience, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, love, trust, etc…..)?  Are we constantly reacting to life, or do we proactively choose how we will proclaim the Good News of Christ in our words and actions?

May this holiday be a time of rich blessings to us all!


3rd Advent – Music & Hope!

Christmas Carol

Study:  Reflect on moments when you have been inspired.  What was the source of your inspiration?  Where do you find inspiration now?

Pray:  Is there something or someone in your life in need of hope?  Pray for God’s grace to touch and bless this need, in whatever way God chooses.

Serve:  How can you bring hope to others?  How can your life offer inspiration, healing, and the grace of Christ to our world?

3rd Advent Readings

There seems like no better time of the year then the days before Christmas for familiar music melodies.  On the radio or the street corner, in stores and homes, these tunes strike a sweet spot in many hearts.  Here are just a few examples:
* O Come, All Ye Faithful
* Joy to the World
* Silent Night, Holy Night
* Away in a Manger
* Angels We Have Heard on High
* O Little Town of Bethlehem
* It Came upon the Midnight Clear
* God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
And many, many more!

In these days of preparation, people are often found humming or whistling a favorite tune.  In fact, people who seldom (if ever) sing are most likely to do so at this time of year – caroling with friends, in church, (or when no when is looking…..!).

Music has the power to inspire us.  It uplifts our hearts, evokes strong emotions, and puts us in touch with memories and feelings that we might forget or ignore.  In many respects, music is one of our most human qualities.

When we allow ourselves to be touched by music, we discover that its message moves through us.  We hear and understand information in a different way, and in turn are able to express these insights to others.  We are able to proclaim good news.

In the Scriptures we hear messages of hope.  Isaiah offers a prophecy of a renewed world; James offers an invitation to steadfast patience; and Matthew reveals the power of Jesus at work with the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

These are incredible words!  We listen to them, as we have often listened in the past, yet we are invited to let their meaning touch us and strengthen us for our daily needs.  At these moments music becomes a powerful aid, helping us to put into song the comfort and joy that come through our hope in Christ.

During these short days before Christmas, take a moment to hear the music around us.  Listen to the words, hear the melodies, and hey, sing them!  Their power moves our hearts, helping us to proclaim the Good News of God in our midst.  Be inspired by the gift of music to bring Christ’s hope to our hearts!


2nd Advent – Decorating our Homes and our Hearts

Christmas Tree

Study:  What are some of the special things we do to prepare for Christmas?  How can we apply this preparation to our own hearts?

Pray:  Pray for the spiritual vision to truly “see” God at work in our lives this Advent.  Bring to prayer any special moments or experiences which touched your heart.

Serve:  How might we help others prepare for the coming of Christ?  How might our service bring others closer to God and one another?

2nd Advent Readings

They were located in the storage space under the stairs in my parents’ house.  Each year several boxes of varying sizes would get pulled out from this space on the day after Thanksgiving.  The contained:

* Christmas tree
* Ornaments & Tinsel
* Lights
* Christmas figurines
* Advent Wreath
* Nativity Set

Furniture would be moved to make space for the tree, items would be packed up or rearranged to accommodate the Christmas decorations, and other items (wreaths & candles) would be purchased.  The preparations would often take several hours to set up, but when finished, the house would be transformed.

Many homes have similar (or even more elaborate) traditions in their preparations for the coming of Jesus.  Decorations, inside and out, completely change the appearance of a home – often at the cost of hours (or even days) of hard work.

These decorations can often change the appearance of a building in a variety of ways.  Beauty and light are the intended result, and the added attention of decorations reveals the power of the season.  Simply put, we decorate to show that something special is happening in our world.

What is true for decorations is true for us.  Just as decorations can transform a building, so to we are called to look at our hearts to discern what needs to be changed, improved, or cleaned up.  We have the opportunity to see how our lives affect others.

We adorn a building with decorations to make it beautiful, but do we take the time to decorate our hearts?  Do we pause and look at our values or priorities, our hopes, needs, or fears?  Do we examine what is not of God in our life and change it?

The Scriptures remind us that when Jesus comes he will be our judge.  He will rule the nations and govern with justice.  In preparation John the Baptist urges the people to repent – to make a change in their hearts – and adorn their lives with the beauty and goodness that arise from this season.  Let us do the same, and decorate both our homes and our hearts, so the Lord will find us ready when he returns.


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