St. Paul writes, “Our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Cor. 16). Yeah, 365 days to renew our spirits! How can I “re-new” my spirit? Could my New Year’s resolution be to make a “new me”? How can I make 2021 a year for good things? Here’s a thought. Take your new calendar and occasionally put a mark on some of the days. Let the mark remind you to put some extra goodness in that day. At the end of the day—and at the end of the year–reflect on how focusing on goodness has renewed your spirit. Then praise, thank, and glorify God for God’s goodness.
Although still in a pandemic, some are quite relieved to see 2020 pass. Perhaps 2021 will be better. No matter how we feel about putting up a new calendar and bidding farewell to the old one, we need to remember that 2020 was a year of the Lord, a year of grace, even if we did not perceive it as such.
In a New Year’s Eve sermon, Karl Rahner wrote: “We can take leave of this year gratefully and entrust it to the grace and love of God, the love of the God who is eternity and who preserves for us for our eternity what we are taking our leave of today and tomorrow. What we give in gratitude, God receives in grace, and what is so accepted by him, is redeemed and made holy, blessed and set free.”
At age 84 Anna was still in the temple “worshiping day and night in fasting and prayer.” Maybe she still had a few months or years of life left, but her future became shorter day by day, and death was one day closer. Fortunately for Anna, she was in the right place at the right time. “Coming on the scene at this moment,” she witnessed a man and woman fulfilling the rituals of the Law. Like Simeon, was she “inspired by the Spirit” to be in that spot? Did she notice fear in the parents’ eyes and wonder what Simeon had just said to them? Did she, too, feel that she could be dismissed in peace with a “Nunc dimittis” like Simeon’s? We know that she gave thanks to God and “talked about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.”
Our day, our lives are filled with moments. Many of them may seem inconsequential. God came to earth “when the designated time had come.” (Gal. 4:4). Be attentive to whatever might be a “designated time.” Be ready “at this moment.”
In the First Letter of John, we read about an old commandment, a word that has already been heard. But then the author has second thoughts: “On second thought, the commandment that I write you is new.” We have all probably had the experience of hearing or reading a Scripture story many times. The Christmas story, for example, may be almost memorized. Yet there comes a moment when we think, “I never noticed that before.” That second thought is new. Or maybe we are new. Our spirituality may have become deeper. Our understanding of Scripture may have risen to a new level. Maybe God was tapping at our heart in a way we never experienced before. Thank God for you “second thoughts.”
When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, the angel delivered a nightmarish message: “Take the child and flee.” Joseph’s response: “He left that night.” I imagine his heart raced to wake Mary, urging her to pack a few provisions, while he got the donkey, a bag of grain and a skin of wine. Scooping up the bundled Infant, they looked around their little house one last time. Drawing a deep breath and a deeper prayer of trust, they set out.
How do we respond to inspirations, an idea for a kind act, an urge to perform a good deed, a spiritual tug to pray more, a pang of conscience to be reconciled? Is our response “right away” as was that of Joseph and Mary?
Like all families, the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph must have had some tense moments and challenging days. Imagine racing to Egypt to escape a tyrant or losing a child for three days somewhere in Jerusalem. Yet Jesus apparently had a very blessed and happy childhood. Otherwise would he have spoken so often about children? Would being a child have become a requirement for entrance into the Kingdom of God? When you see a child today, squint and imagine the Boy Jesus. Then remember that Jesus the Christ is the “image of glory.” Embracing humanity, the Incarnate Word looks like us.
If Covid has prevented you from seeing your family at Christmas, take a moment today to phone or text a family member to tell of your love and appreciation, perhaps along with a childhood memory.
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
2. Silent Night
3. What Child Is This?
4. O Little Town of Bethlehem
5. Good Christian Friends
6. We Three Kings
How well did you do??
“The kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared,” and shepherds “went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant” (Christmas Mass at Dawn). It’s Christmas! How will we go in haste to find the Holy Family?
Some families, especially those with little children, might sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus today. A fitting song amid the beautiful carols. Today we celebrate more than a birthday and historical event, however. Every day of the year, every solemnity, feast and season of the Church Year celebrates the whole life of Christ focusing especially on the dying and rising of Christ. Like the Sacred Three Days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, the time of Advent-Christmas can be called the winter pasch. We celebrate God in our midst, God’s birth in all the baptized who are the Body of Christ
Have you ever noticed how many references to the death and resurrection of Jesus, obtaining our salvation, are in our Christmas carols? Can you guess the titles of these lines?
- Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die. Born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
2. With the dawn of redeeming grace.
3. The King of kings salvation brings.
4. Cast out our sins and enter in, be born ins us today.
5. He has opened heaven’s door., and we are blessed forever more
6. King and God and Sacrifice.
When Scrooge awakes from his nocturnal visits of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Future and Present, he makes this promise: “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirit of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” Liturgy holds together the past, the present, and the future. All are celebrated in every Mass, Sacrament, or Liturgy of the Hours. At the Christmas Masses we celebrate the past when we remember the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. We also look to the future when the Incarnation will be completed in the Second Coming, when God comes in full glory as King of the Universe. Most immediately, we live in the present and incarnate Christ in our lives through goodness. Scrooge’s conversion led him to believe that Christmas and every other day of the year has a past, present, and future. Let us remember the past historical events of Bethlehem, the future events to which Advent points, and the importance of living the life of the Incarnate Word today.
Each of us has a particular role in the Body of Christ. To discern our role takes constant purification and conversion, so that we can receive more light. Poor Zechariah! He always wanted a child even into his old age when he knew his longing for a son would never be fulfilled. But then one day an angel appeared to inform him that his prayer had been heard, and “your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.” But then he blew it. His disbelief left him speechless. For five long months he was unable to speak. Writing on a tablet left him little opportunity to express the wonderment, the anticipation, and the “joy and gladness [with which] many will rejoice at his birth.” Everyone in the village assumed the baby would become Little Zack or Zechariah Junior. But Zechariah had five months of soul-searching, conversion, and enlightenment. With his parental authority, Zechariah wrote “His name is John.” The meaning of John— “The Lord has shown favor”–would characterize the prophet and precursor of the Messiah from babyhood to martyrdom.
Today reflect upon your role in the Body of Christ. How has the season of Advent helped you live your role more fully?