December 2019

From 2019-12-21 to 2019-12-29

Hope That Lasts

Advent is a time to sink our spiritual roots deep, to let them stretch out to God, the source of all life. Because we are thus connected with God, we too can be sources of life to others in the way we live our daily life. Christmas is not only the season of receiving gifts; it is even more so the season of taking delight in giving to others. We emulate what God has done for us and in that we find our deepest joy. Let us prepare, then, to be generous in offering our family, coworkers, and neighbors spiritual gifts such as patience, prudence, encouragement, counsel, faith, hope, and love.

There's a spiritual adage that says, “You can't give what you haven't got.” The gift offered during this last week of Advent is the gift of hope. Let us drink deeply of the spiritual gift of hope that God offers us. Then we can cherish within us the spirit of Christmas and bring to others the blessings of the Christ Child every day of the year.

We can easily become impatient with God and with one another. Living in hope means being willing to live courageously day to day. The signs of change in us will most likely be subtle. Living in hope means that while Jesus has already come, we are still in the process of letting him complete the journey into our hearts.

From 2019-12-14 to 2019-12-24

Third Sunday

As a child, every year before Christmas I drew up a list of the toys and presents that I had my heart set on receiving. Usually there was that one special item that I just knew would gladden my heart and make me feel complete.

This week in Advent we focus on hearts: glad hearts, sad hearts, hard hearts, broken hearts, longing hearts. In the Scriptures much is written about hearts because the heart represents the person's deepest identity. Our hearts reveal who we most truly are because they hold what we most deeply desire.

What's in your heart? We can give many answers to that question, and it's a good question to ponder during this week of Advent. But God has an answer for that question, too. “I will put my law within them, and write it on their hearts,” says the Lord. So in addition to whatever else might be in your heart, you can also be sure that the law of the Lord is written—in permanent ink—on your heart. That law is love.

It's time to live out what's in your heart. I know that when I've gotten confused and lost in my faith there is one sure way to find my way back, and that is to love somebody. In my confusion, I look around to see who in my life could use a loving response. It might be my daughter, who's confused about a decision she faces and needs someone to listen—truly listen. Or it might be my wife, who is overwhelmed with responsibilities and could use a helpmate to shoulder some of those duties. Or it might be that my parish offers me the chance to help make Christmas happier for a family in need. The Advent gift this week is the love God places in our hearts.

From 2019-12-07 to 2019-12-24

Our World Longs for God

In early adulthood I began to find Christmas a great letdown. People talk about the magic of Christmas. At that time in my life, the magic seemed to have disappeared. Christmas began to seem like just any other day, only one with a lot of additional obligations and emotional demands.

Ironically, my sense of holiday malaise began to ease when I accepted that Christmas is, in one respect, just like any other day. That is, I can recognize the coming of Christ into my life and into my heart at any moment, on any and every day. Christ's coming wasn't limited to that one single day when “the magic” had to happen. In fact I came to realize that this wasn't about magic at all, but about reality. The true meaning of Christmas is grounded in the profound revelation that God so loves us that he chose to dwell among us both in Bethlehem and today right in our families. I came to see how, in Isaiah's words, “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” whenever I am willing to prepare the way of the Lord into my life. For me, making a straight path in the wasteland usually has to do with quieting my mind and opening my heart.

The gift for the second week of Advent is that God speaks a reassuring word of comfort in the midst of our discontent and longing. In this quiet season—a season we tend to fill up with a lot of noise and frantic activity—make time daily to listen for the comforting words of God in your life. Probably the quickest way to begin hearing those words is to create a daily gratitude list. Set aside five minutes each morning or evening and take a few deep breaths. When you are settled, start jotting down whatever comes to your mind that you are grateful for. With a heart full of gratitude, everything else in our lives will change. We will begin to see, even in the demands of our Christmas preparations, the real purpose of those efforts—celebrating the Lord's arrival in our life and the lives of those we love.