Christmas is not just for Christians. Traditionally, the feast celebrates the birth of Jesus. Christians initiated it and, in truth, it is a special day for the followers of Jesus. Christian homes and churches are adorned with creches and the children marvel at the baby, the animals, and the majesty of the 3 kings. The star of Bethlehem lights the way for many.
However, the message of Christmas is one that can speak to every person of faith. The Christmas message proclaims through angel voices, that we have a God who loves us, is among us, and works for our salvation. The foundation for our hope is that our loving God is present with us. All that exists is created and held in existence by the breath of God. By this graciousness of God, all creation can be proclaimed holy.
And so, we know that whether we are standing again on Sinai, meditating on the universe, bathing in a sacred river, journeying to Mecca, or celebrating the mystery of the divine life within the human Jesus, the Christmas message tells us of a God who is relational, intimate, and actively present in all of creation.
This message of Christmas, therefore, belongs to and is Good News for everyone. This season is God-centered and it is a time of joy and many blessings.
Celebrating in prayer the fourth week of Advent
O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reach from one end of the earth to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
O Sapientia, Veni!
O Wisdom, Come!
O Lord of Might, ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush; on Mount Sinai you gave him the law: Come, with outstretched arm redeem us.
O Adonai, Veni!
O Lord of Might, Come!
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, delay no longer.
O Radix, Veni!
O Root of Jesse, Come!
O Key of David, and scepter of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come, and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness, and the shadow of death.
O Clavis, Veni!
O Key of David, Come!
O Dayspring, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come, and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Oriens, Veni!
O Dayspring, Come!
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making us both one: Come, save the human race whom you have fashioned from clay.
O Rex Gentium, Veni!
O King of Nations, Come!
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
O Emmanuel, Veni!
O Emmanuel, Come!
The Wolf and the Lamb by LauraKGibbs/CC
With the coming of Advent, we look forward to the message of the Prophet Isaiah which the church places on our lips every year at this holy season. These texts are universally loved and cherished. Who could fail to be comforted by the image of the “wolf lying down with the lamb …and the lion and the yearling together” (Isaiah 11:6), or by all enemies “beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war war any more”? (Isaiah 2:4).
Despite our experience that this has not yet happened, despite our sadness that the reign of God has not yet been fully realized and that the human family continues to make the same tragic mistakes over and over, our faith tells us that with the Incarnation, God’s reign has been initiated, and ultimately will be realized in all its fullness. If we ponder this truth and if we recall God’s fidelity to God’s promises, our hearts often become lighter and filled with gratitude. Deep gratitude, we know, is ever and always the most appropriate human response to God who is all and in all and loves all and saves all.
One of the things we often don’t notice, however, is that, strange as it may sound, gratitude between ourselves and God can be regarded as reciprocal. Just as we are called to be immensely grateful to God, so God is grateful to us, despite the disparity between the human and divine, if and when we respond generously to what God asks of us.
The great giant of the Advent season, to whom God must have been infinitely grateful, whose yes changed salvation history and whom we cherish mightily is, of course, Mary, who agreed to be God’s mother and became so through the Holy Spirit. Poet Irene Zimmerman captures this as she reflects on God’s gratitude to Mary:
Your world hung on the balance of her yes or no.
Yet, “She must feel absolutely free,” You said,
and chose with gentle sensitivity not to go
Yourself – to send a messenger instead.
I like to think You listened in at that interview
with smiling admiration and surprise
to that humble child who-
though she didn’t amount to much in Jewish eyes,
being merely virgin, not yet come to bloom-
in the presence of that other-worldly Power
crowding down the walls and ceiling of her room,
did not faint or cry or cower
and could not be coerced to enflesh Your covenant,
but asked her valid question first
before she gave her full and free consent.
I like to think you stood
to long applaud such womanhood. (Irene Zimmerman: Incarnation, p.27)
Reflection by: Carol Johannes, OP
An Nontraditional Advent Meditation
The Incarnation of God began billions of years ago when the earliest forms of matter were ignited and began the vast cosmic expansion that is home to us all today.
Billions of years passed as God patiently worked, preparing creation to bring forth the divinely human Jesus. When that work was complete, in the sacred Fullness of Time, there was an eternally important but little noticed event in which, as Elizabeth Johnson noted,
“Real blood was shed at this delivery, by a poor woman of peasant society far from home,
laboring in childbirth for the first time. And it was holy.”
The centuries since Jesus began to open our eyes to our deeper humanly divine reality have witnessed God quietly continuing to develop the Incarnation slowly among us, building communities of trust and hope that may one day evolve with our help into a world of peace with justice and love for all. On that day, conscious of the divine life we each embody, we will embrace God within and among us all.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us:
“Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally, impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient on the way to something unknown,
And yet it is made by passing through stages of instability
And that may take a very long time. . . .
Only God can say what this new spirit
forming within you will be.
Give the Lord the benefit of believing
that His hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
In suspense and incomplete.”
James E. Hug, S.J.
Winter Sky by Marcy Leigh
Come to hear your heart’s desires
Birthing love for all
December 2, 2015
There is no doubt that Advent can be a busy time. There are cards to write, presents to buy, parties to attend, and the days are adorned with decorations, baking, and visiting with friends. There are also many twinkling lights decorating homes because the days are darker and colder as we approach the winter solstice in this hemisphere. Advent can be a flurry of activity.
Yet as people of faith, we are aware that Advent is a sacred time. Advent is a season of hope, of expectation, and of peace. There is a poem by Ann Weems (Kneeling in Bethlehem) that says:
“Those who wait for God watch with their hearts and not their eyes,
Listening, always listening”.
During Advent, we are called to participate in the silence of the season. So, it is important that we take time apart to contemplate and to wait in prayer that we may grow in awe of the Incarnational mystery that Advent heralds.
Advent is a time of hope. In this world of so many troubles, violence, and neglect of the marginalized, hope can be difficult. I suspect that it is partly because in the wake of the unrest in our cultural and political lives, we can easily see the “glass as half empty” and so we may confuse hope with optimism. We hear voices saying that all will be well and yet somehow that seems too simple and we want to be realistic.
But it is important, especially at this time, to remember that hope is not optimism, rather it is a theological virtue. Hope is the heart’s assent to the reality that God is present in our lives and our world. God is at work among us, that is the meaning of the Incarnation and the foundation for hope.
There is a song by Carey Landry (Dance in the Darkness) with these words in the refrain:
“Dance in the darkness, slow be the pace.
Surrender to the rhythm of redeeming grace”.
These words can be a guide for Advent prayer. We need to slow our pace in order to listen and watch with our hearts. We need to slow our pace in order to appreciate the gifts of the darkness – what better image for mystery. We need to slow our pace to recognize God’s rhythm of redeeming grace. We need to slow our pace to allow Advent to bless us, to birth us, and to remind us that Christmas is not one particular day but rather it is the present moment.
And about hope, that is the Dance!
Karen Rossman, OP
Throughout this sacred season, there will be various offerings for your reflection and prayer. The first is a Friar’s homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent
The Global Catholic Climate Movement is offering a free Advent Resource Kit which contains a creation-themed Advent calendar linked to the liturgical readings, a list of 5 ways to “green” Christmas, an Advent novena, and an ecological Advent coloring book.
GCCM also has presented a beautiful online daily Advent Calendar