It’s four days after Christmas, and the warm feelings we associate with the holidays are beginning to fade. So what now? What difference will Jesus’ coming to live among us make in our lives? How will it help us to love each other and remain “in the light” (1 John 2:8)?
For one thing, because Jesus became one of us, we now know what love looks like in real-life situations. On every page of the Gospels, he has shown us that love is about making concrete decisions to put other people’s interests before our own, He showed this by dining with people no one else wanted to associate with (Luke 19:1-10). Or feeding people who were hungry (John 6:1-15). Or asking someone suffering in silence to articulate what he needs (Luke 18:35-43). Or forgiving someone who has sinned grievously (John 8:1-11).
If this list makes it sound as if Jesus has set the bar too high for you, don’t worry. Jesus knows your strengths and weaknesses, and he is ready to help you. You don’t have to figure out how to love on your own. Jesus’ own love, his creativity, and his compassion can become your love, creativity and compassion. Slowly. Gradually. Over time and through trial and error.Read More »
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow,” Helen Keller once said. What a remarkable statement coming from a woman who had been blind since infancy! Although Keller couldn’t actually see the sunlight, she knew it was there, and she also knew that it could overcome any shadow in her life.
In today’s Gospel, Mary has fixed her eyes on the source of all light, God the Father. Although Mary could have worried about what her neighbors might think or how she could possibly raise the Son of God, she chose instead to turn her thoughts toward the Lord. And because of this, her heart was filled with praise and rejoicing.
What a beautiful model for all of us to follow! Like Mary, we too can choose to fix our eyes on Jesus and his truth in Scripture. As we reflect on all that God has done for us, the desire to praise him and rejoice in his goodness to us will naturally well up in us. Then we will be able to pray, with Mary, “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” (Luke 1:49)Read More »
Saint Paul believed that rejoicing was a basic disposition that we all should try to maintain, even when things don’t go our way. In his short Letter to the Philippians, in fact, he spoke about rejoicing fifteen times. And let’s not forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter! He was not going to let his circumstances rob him of his joy.
So how did Paul maintain a joyful disposition? First, he rejoiced because he knew Jesus’ love. If you back up just two chapters in this letter, you’ll see him singing a hymn that extols Jesus’ willingness to empty himself, become a man, and die on the cross (Philippians 2:7-8). And then in the next chapter, he writes, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). The thought of Jesus’ love–a love that gives of itself freely–continually filled Paul with joy.
Second, Paul rejoiced in the Philippians themselves. They were his joy and his crown (Philippians 4:1). They were his dear friends who had joined him in a “partnership for the gospel” (1:5). He rejoiced because he knew he had brothers and sisters who loved him and supported him in his faith.Read More »
Think back to a time when you were chosen for some special privilege or honor. Maybe your employer chose you for a position over other qualified applicants. Or perhaps your teammates chose you as captain because of you ability to lead others. It’s a good feeling to be singled out in such a way. Or think about how you felt when your future husband or wife chose to marry you and spend the rest of their life with you.
We believe that God chose Mary, before creation of the world, to be the Mother of God. And because he had chosen her for that unique role, he prepared her in a special way. He preserved her from original sin and gave her to two devout, faithful parents.
The God who chose Mary has also chosen you–and from the beginning of creation as well. He knew you. He intended for you to be born. He wanted you so much, in fact, that he sent his Son to redeem you.Read More »
We often talk about “The Christmas Story,” as if it were one single story. Actually, it’s made up of a number of individual stories, each of which tells us something unique about the Christ child. The story of the Annunciation tells us about Mary’s openness to God’s plan. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth tells us how John the Baptist – Jesus’ forerunner – was called at birth. The stories of the shepherds and the Magi tell us that Jesus is worth searching for.
There’s another story we don’t often think about because it’s not as long. It’s the story of the innkeeper whose closed doors led Mary and Joseph to the manger. But just imagine for a moment that he did manage to find room for them after all. His inn, not the manger, would be honored throughout the world. There would likely be a grand church marking its location, and pilgrims would flock to it year after year.
As Advent begins, let’s not be like the innkeeper. He missed a grand opportunity because he didn’t make room for Jesus.Read More »