December 31 – Bearers of the Word

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December 31 – Bearers of the Word

The Church has placed a number of notable feast days immediately after Christmas. The feasts of Stephen, John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents form a summary of the life lived in Christ, the Word made flesh. What do these have to do with the feast of the Holy Family, which crowns the Octave of Christmas? These feasts remind us that suffering will occur in fulfilling the mission of Christ, and that we are all called to be bearers of this Word whose birth we celebrate. We also see this manifested in the lives of Joseph and Mary, both of whom took social and religious risks in obedience to the will of God, and both of whom were open to the word of God sent to them from on high. In these ways they prefigured the life of Jesus himself. Most likely, few of us found ourselves at Mass this past Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, but the essence of these feasts and the essence of the holiness of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus remain central, a holiness we celebrate today.

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December 24 – God’s Promise

The lengthy passage from Samuel is a wonderful exposition of God’s promise to the house of David: that his throne would forever be gloriously occupied by his descendants. Hidden in the mystery of the prophecy is the promise of the Savior, the Messiah, Son of God and Son of David. The prophet Nathan, speaking in God’s name, poetically turns around David’s plan to build a house for God, and announces God’s plan to build a “house,” that is, a dynasty for David. From this house of David will come the Messiah, the Christ, not in kingly splendor as David ruled, but as a humble man, destined to rule forever and over all. When God gives a gift, it’s amazing what we are given—so different from what we ever could have imagined.

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December 17 – Rejoice

Isaiah proclaims truly good news to us! God’s coming brings not sadness, guilt, fear, wrath, or condemnation. No, God’s coming is a source of comfort and joy. Saying it once is not enough, for today’s readings are full of joy. Mary’s Magnificat substitutes for our psalm today, and our second reading encourages us to rejoice, to give thanks and praise. This is the root meaning of the Greek word for eucharist. We are urged to rejoice and give thanks, because the coming of the Lord brings joy, healing, liberty, release, vindication. It makes the very earth spring up with new life! Good tidings!

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December 10 – News of Comfort

In a time of preparation, much of it having to do with material things, it is good to hear the words of Isaiah, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, / says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). In a time of such stress and rush, when our usual burdens are augmented by piles of Christmas preparations, we can choose to slow down, take some time to heal, and appreciate the enormous gift we are about to receive. Christ, the Son of God, has become one of us, and knows our human limitations. Yet God, even now, is freeing us from the burdens that our inattentiveness to our God and to our deepest inner longings have heaped upon us. The Lord comes, not as a king with mighty armies, but as a shepherd leading the flocks with care and tenderness. Isaiah prophesies good news: our oppression is over, our sins forgiven. The savior we have awaited is coming, not the first time, but in the end times, as our salvation.

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December 3 – God Has a Different Plan

We begin the season of Advent with a heartfelt call for our own repentance. We remember God’s faithful love for us, and call upon God to help us to turn back. For “behold, you are angry, and we are sinful” (Isaiah 64:4). In the first reading and in the psalm, we recall God’s promises and lament our unfaithfulness and our guilt. We call upon God’s might and power in order to save us. With Isaiah, we ask God to “rend the heavens and come down, / with the mountains quaking before you” (Isaiah 63:19). Yes, God is faithful to us, because we are the work of God’s hands. God is the potter, we are the clay. And yet, our concept of how God will come to save us is rooted in our own expectations of a warrior God who crushes mountains and thunders into our lives with great noise and glory. But God has a different plan: the Incarnation.

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