Advent Daily Reflections – Week Four

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Sunday 18 December

Expectant Love

Scripture: Matthew 1: 18 – 24

Reflection

This is a familiar account of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. I am hesitant to use the words ‘familiar story of the birth of Jesus’ because, for many, the events around the birth of Jesus are almost magical and Disney-like. 

This great event, even though the details are few, was an historical event, destined in time since the fall of mankind, and proclaimed by the prophets.

St. Matthew makes a strong connection with the prophesies foretelling the coming Saviour.  Today he quotes from Isaiah “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.” (Isaiah 7:14)  How extraordinary!  Is it no wonder that it is sometimes confused with a Disney story! 

The great God of the universe chooses to enter our world, conceived in the womb of Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit!  The God of Love came among us to show us in person, so to speak, what love really is. His presence brings all mankind, of every time and age, a real experience of the God who is with us.

This is the great wonder of our faith that our God is always with us. He is Emmanuel. We remember also the promise of Jesus at his Ascension “And know that I am with you always: yes, to the end of time. (Matthew 28: 20) It is the very last words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel.

God came to be with us and is always with us, sharing or joys and sorrows, our success and failure, in the midst of our struggles and hardships.  He helps, guides and strengthens us throughout our lives.  He is like a strong, silent companion throughout our lives.  Do we really know this? Do we really believe this?  The annual celebration of the birth of the Saviour at Christmas is a reminder to us of our God who is with us.  When we embrace this reality of our faith, and are open to God’s power presence, our life is changed and transformed.  This is what gave Many and Joseph the courage to face all the hardships and difficulties that had to endure having said ‘yes’ to God.

This Christmas, put your complete faith, hope and trust in God, as Mary and Joseph did, and experience God who is with us, really, truly and personally!

Practical Suggestion: If you haven’t yet gone to Confession, attend the Penitential Service at 10am Tuesday 20th December 2022 or during the Holy Hour on Wednesday at 8.30am.  

Prayer:  Come Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Come Lord Jesus come into my life. Come Lord Jesus come and be born in me. Amen.

Monday 19 December

Scripture: Luke 1: 5 – 25

Reflection

You may remember John ‘Hannibal’ Smith from the 1980s television series ‘The A-Team’ who would always say at the end of each successful mission “I love it when a plan comes together.”  Today, in this week of Love, St. Luke begins his Gospel with God’s plan coming together.

We witness this in the annunciation of John the Baptist by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah. John is to be the last of the great prophets “with the spirit and power of Elijah.”  “Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” Gabriel proclaims.  How extraordinary! Gabriel continues, he will “turn the hearts of fathers towards their children.”

What thoughts must have been on the mind of Zechariah as the message of the angel sunk in!  The child that he and Elizabeth would have, in their old age, would be truly remarkable!  God was going to use them to deliver into the world the one who would “prepare for the Lord a people fit for him.” Later this week, on Christmas Eve we will hear the song of Zechariah, known as the Benedictus, in which he sings the praises of God, recognising in his son, John a “prophet of the Most High” who will “go before the Lord to prepare a way for him.”

John the Baptist features prominently during this Advent Season and, yet again, is our focus today and will be on Christmas Eve.  Why?  Because he was pivotal in God’s plan to prepare his people for the coming of the Promised Saviour.

Today, as we count down the days to Christmas, it is vital for us to be focused (or refocused) on the call to repentance and preparation, to make straight the way for the coming of the Lord.  Parents are called to turn towards their children and prepare them for the Birth of the Saviour. This is the real countdown to Christmas. Rather than a emphasis on presents and gift-giving we need to be reminded of God’s great gift to us: the presence of Jesus in our hearts and lives. This is Love made real!

Practical Suggestion   

Immerse yourself in God’s great Love this week.  Go to Mass and welcome the presence of Jesus into your life.  Prepare yourself and your family for your Christmas Mass and make it a priority for your Christmas this year.

Prayer: 

Father, your Love guides every moment of my life. As I prepare for the great gift of your Son Jesus I pray that I will be filled, once again, with the Power of your Love.  Amen.

Tuesday 20 December

Scripture:   Luke 1: 26 – 38

Reflection:

The Incarnation in today’s Gospel is surely the greatest moment in human history! Through the message of an angel, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, “the Word was made, and lived among us.” (John 1:14)

So great is this moment that we recall it every day in the prayer we call the ‘Angelus’ at the beginning of the day (6.00am), the middle of the day (12.00pm, and the end of the day (6.00pm).

What extraordinary faith it must have taken for Mary to say “Let what you have said be done to me.” Could she possibly have known what saying ‘yes’ to God would entail?  Perhaps a little as she did ask “How can this come about since I am a virgin?”

The angel’s assurance of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High gave Mary the strength and courage to make her response to God.  Mary’s ‘yes’ was going to bring her many hardships and difficulties, not least of which was how she would explain this to her parents and family – and to Joseph, to whom she was promised in marriage.  In the face of all of this she placed her complete faith, hope and trust in God, believing that he who has asked her to do this, would guide her to bring it to completion.

This is why the Church honours Mary; she is a wonderful example of faith for us to imitate.  She was the first to believe in God’s promise to send the world a Saviour. She believed from the moment of his conception.

Practical suggestion:  As you reflect today on Mary’s faith and how God used her to bring the Saviour into the world, allow her words to echo within the depths of your being “Let what you have said be done to me.” God is asking you today to do hwat he asked Mary to do: to bring Jesus into the world. How will you respond?

Prayer:  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Wednesday 21 December

Scripture   Luke 1: 39-45

Reflection

We lit the Advent candle of love on Sunday and are given a Gospel passage today that tells of  an  event of  about nine months ago in our liturgical calendar: Mary greeting her relative Elizabeth at the Visitation, after she had heard God’s message from the angel. Why?

Advent is a time for sincere introspection, a time to reflect on what love really is.  Is it an emotion or second-hand emotion (Tina Turner), a good feeling, a pleasurable experience, something related to relationships and what we like?  No, these are all worldly definitions. We need to reflect on the spiritual meaning and action required out of love.

The love we contemplate begins with the love that God lavished upon us when He sent His Son Jesus. This was God’s great gift to us. Jesus who will come to judge the living and the dead, was scorned and rejected for revealing God as he really is.  He was tortured and crucified just because he revealed God as a Father wants a loving relationship with us to be restored.  There is huge sacrifice involved in Jesus’ demonstration of what love really is.  God’s love made real in Jesus is a self-sacrificing love, a love in which one gives all of oneself. “Greater love than this no one has than the one who lays down their life for their friends.” (John 15:13)

Mary made the hundred kilometre journey from Nazareth to Ein Karem in the hill country of Judah.  It would have taken the best part of a week, in  harsh and dangerous conditions.  Today’s Gospel tells us that “Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.” She wanted to share her joy with someone else who had been blessed by God and who was pivotal in the wonderful plan of God to bring salvation to his people.  She wanted to be in community with Elizabeth and to be in the presence of this woman in whose life God had also done something wonderful.  She demonstrated her love by sacrificing her own comfort, safety and time for the other.  When this happens, the door swings wide open for the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives. I n this case Elizabeth’s child leapt in her womb.

Practical Suggestion: Before Christmas 2022, do something for, or say something to someone else that costs you  your comfort, your time or your possessions. Demonstrate to yourself and the other or others what true love actually entails.

Prayer: Holy Spirit of God empower me to share with others the true meaning of love as was demonstrated in all the circumstances around the birth of the Saviour. Amen.

Thursday 22 December

Scripture: Luke 1: 46 – 56

Reflection

We are expectant in Love for the Christ Child to be born in just three days.  Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat, resonates with her Love for God.  There is no pride or vanity in Mary’s prayer because her focus is all on God.  It is the prayer of a woman who knows her own limitations and who is in awe of a loving, all-powerful and liberating God. Today, Mary’s vision of a just God – for whom nothing is impossible – can help us to live out our Christian vocation in an unjust, secular society.

Mary magnifies the Lord, proclaiming God’s greatness and rejoicing in God as Saviour. She begins with God’s actions in her own life, for in choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, the Mighty One has indeed done great things for her. Elizabeth has just welcomed and honoured her, saying, “blessed is she who believed.” Now she recognizes with awe that not only Elizabeth but all generations will call her blessed.  

#Blessed has become a meme, and ‘feeling blessed’ makes regular appearances in social media posts. People tweet images or post pictures of themselves enjoying a delicious meal or an exotic vacation or a shopping spree at their favourite store, marking themselves as ‘blessed.’ It has come to mean living a life of privilege and comfort, a way of celebrating those moments when everything is going well and all seems right with the world — or at least one’s own little corner of it.

The blessedness that Mary celebrates stands in stark contrast to our culture’s attitude.  By our standards she does not look at all blessed.  God has chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah.  In practical terms what does that mean for her?  She is not from a family that can afford expensive food or clothing. She is a relative nobody, a peasant girl from a small village.  Her friends and neighbours see her as a disgrace because she is unmarried and pregnant (see Joseph’s initial reaction to her pregnancy in Matthew 1:19). Furthermore, as she will soon learn from Simeon, if she hasn’t perceived it already, being the mother of the Messiah is to become a challenge.  She will bear the unspeakable grief of watching as her Son is rejected, shamed, and crucified: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel … and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34–35).  Despite all this, Mary praises God for honouring her.

Practical Suggestion:  Take a step towards emulating the faith and humility of Mary, recognising God our Saviour, by acknowledging that you are a sinner and reflecting on what actions and habits you need to change to prevent the sins you confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation from recurring.

Prayer:  How great you are, my mighty Saviour and Lord! I join my heart and voice with Mary’s to proclaim your praises and to rejoice in your goodness and kindness to me  Amen.

Friday 23 December

Scripture: Luke 1: 57 – 66

Reflection:   

On Sunday, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus (Christmas), and today’s Gospel tells us of the birth of John the Baptist (forerunner of Jesus).  Advent gives us a sense of new birth as we prepare to welcome Jesus.  Repentance, John Baptist’s message, helps us to turn over a new leaf and to open a new chapter in the story of our lives.  New birth gives us a sense of joy and hope.  Likewise, the birth of John the Baptist brought joy to his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and to those around them: “When her (Elizabeth’s) neighbours and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her Joy.”  There was, however, a disagreement about the name of the new baby.  Zachariah declared that he should be called John, the name the angel Gabriel had given, which means ‘the Lord/God is gracious.’ 

Both the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus were meant to rekindle the fire in God’s people.  With these births, we see the grace and favour of God breaking forth into the world; a world devoid of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.   Back to today’s Gospel, the neighbours and kinsfolk then wondered, “What then will this child turn out to be?” They knew that the child was special and enjoyed God’s favour. 

We know that John the Baptist had a unique and important mission to usher in the era of the Messiah.  The prophet Malachi (today’s OT scripture) prophesied the birth of John, calling him the messenger who would clear the way for Christ. In order to undertake such a crucial role, John grew matured in spirit and strength. 

While the people wondered what would become of John, we can turn inwardly and ask ourselves, “What am I called to do?” On Sunday we will celebrate Christmas, so let us allow the birth of Jesus to rekindle the fire within us so that we will realise our special mission to the world. 

What contributions can you make to the lives of others?  It was not just John the Baptist who had a special mission, our rebirth through the waters of Baptism gives us a special mission to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth. 

Practical Suggestion: What special mission is God calling you to? Regardless of your age, there is a unique mission that God wants you to fulfil.  What does God want you to do?  Could it possibly be to spread God’s love to those whose lives lack love? 

Prayer:  O God, who raised up Saint John the Baptist to make a nation ready for Christ the Lord, give us the grace of spiritual joy and direct the hearts of all the faithful in the way of salvation and peace. Amen. 

Saturday 24 December

Scripture: Luke 1:67 – 79 

Reflection:   

The angel Gabriel gave Zechariah specific instructions as to what name he was to give his son.  From then onwards Zechariah was without the power of speech until the moment that he confirmed that the child’s name was to be John.  After demonstrating his obedience to God, he was able to speak, and was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit.

Amazing things happen when we obey God. He is able to work wonders in our lives when we listen to Him and do as He says.  Zechariah was able to prophesy about the important role his son will have as the one who would go before the Lord to prepare the people’s hearts to receive Him.  He was the one who would preach about the forgiveness of God, and point to Jesus who would be the light in the darkness and who would show us the way to eternal life.

Today, allow Zachariah’s song of praise to echo deep within you as you give thanks to God for the gift of the Saviour.  It is a song of hope in God’s promises being fulfilled.  Be open to allow his promises to be fulfilled in you and, through you, in our world once again.

Perhaps you have not accomplished all that you set out to during this Advent and possibly your preparations for Christmas have not been as you hoped. In these last hours as you prepare for Christmas, allow yourself to be filled with a real sense of anticipation and excitement.  Whether we are ready or not, he is coming.  Welcome his presence with Expectant Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Practical Suggestion:   

It’s Christmas Eve.  Invite someone to go with you to Christmas Mass, so that they too will experience the joy of Jesus’ birth in a very real and meaningful way.

Prayer:  

Father,. as we wait in Expectant Love for the birth of Jesus, we thank you for the great gift he is to us. 

These Daily Reflections for Advent 2022 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Irene Helsdon, George Cominos Mike Montocchio, Fr. Wandile Cagwe, and Veronica Donnelly. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing.  We wish you blessed and happy Christmas.

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