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Saturday, December 24, 2022

Luke 1:67 - 79

Joy Sets Us Free

We’ve journeyed so far this Advent. It’s flown by, and there’s hardly been time to breathe.

 Here we are, the day before Christmas. Many of us will go to Mass tonight. This morning’s Gospel reading — different from what we’ll hear at a vigil Mass or the Mass for Christmas Day — is Zechariah’s first speech after nine months of silence. It’s a reminder that the Lord is behind all the good things in our lives.

It points to the joy at the heart of how we live and what we live for. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,” Zechariah begins, “for he has come to his people to set them free.”

Our joy sets us free, free from the bondage of sin, free from the bondage of fear, free from the bondage of busyness.

Our joy is Jesus. He came as a baby. He comes as the Eucharist.

Let your joy loose. You’ve been building up to this moment for all of Advent, and now the Christmas season awaits you. 

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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Daily Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for the joy you are and the joy you bring. Praised be your holy name!

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Misc Activity - Food, Drink, etc.

If you’re done with all the Christmas preparations and have a moment to sit at home on Christmas eve, reflect on these last four weeks of Advent. Did you experience and share Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy? Let’s make this a goal for 2023 in our journey to move closer to Christ.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Luke 1:57 - 66

He will be called John

Imagine the happiness of Elizabeth and Zechariah! Their baby has been born, so long awaited and so miraculous. At the point of circumcision and naming, everyone was ready to call him Zechariah. It made sense, after all. It’s how things were done.

Elizabeth pushed back: “No. He will be called John.” Zechariah still didn’t have his voice, but they handed him a tablet to get confirmation from him.

He gave it, and the first words he spoke, now that he could, were to bless God.

“Fear came upon all their neighbors,” we read. This was no ordinary baby, and they knew it. 

We know it, too. He was the forerunner, the precursor, the beginning of the prophecy.

God has a track record of mercy. He gives more than he takes, and he knows what’s best for us. And whether we accept the gift he’s offering or not, he won’t stop holding it out to us.

Are we ready?

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Daily Prayer

Bless you, God, for the great abundance and beauty that surround me, for the joy that fills my moments and the opportunity that surrounds my days.

SOURCE: Creighton University Online Ministries

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Luke 1:46 - 56

Be Like Mary

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. (Luke 1:46)

Mary’s song, the Magnificat, focuses on God’s great works, especially his tendency to turn everything upside down. He “looked upon his lowly servant” when choosing a mother for the Messiah, rather than selecting a woman of prominence. The Lord “scattered the proud in their conceit,” rather than honoring them. “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” God’s kingdom inverts worldly structures and values.

When we read Mary’s song, we are challenged to take seriously what she said. I must confess that the “Magnificat” unsettles me. Why? Because I tend to be proud and even haughty. Because, though I’m not mighty, I am a person with authority and not necessarily all that humble. Moreover, I am certainly not hungry, and I live in the richest nation in the world, where every convenience and opportunity are at my fingertips. 

So, Mary’s song can be unsettling for me, as, indeed, it should be. It challenges me to consider my values and goals. Am I striving for the wrong things in life? How much of my life is devoted to seeking security, reputation, and power? How often do I hold on to my material blessings rather than sharing them with the poor and hungry?

The purpose of the “Magnificat” is not intended to make us feel guilty for what we have in the way of possessions or influence. Rather, it challenges us to devote our entire way of life to being, like Mary, a willing and humble servant of God. It reminds us that, like Israel, we are called to be God’s servants in the world, serving others as a reflection and extension of God’s kingdom. Mary’s song stirs in me a desire to live today for what really matters so that God might use me for his purposes and glory.

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Daily Prayer

Dear Lord, My soul proclaims your greatness, my spirit rejoices in you, my savior.  Help me each day to be your presence in the world. Assist me in choosing to do good – helping others and being less self-centered. I love you, Lord. You have done great things for me. I dedicate this day to showing you my love for you.  Amen.

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Peace be with you

Where there are loneliness and sadness, God’s peace is coming. And so, during Advent, we boldly recognize all places where our world is not peaceful. Take a moment and reflect on the reading below.

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Luke 1:39 - 45

Blessed are you who Believed

Have you ever heard news so good, so amazing, and life-changing that you can’t sit still? You have to share it with someone else?

Isn’t it comforting to know that the Mother of God felt the same way?

Upon hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary dropped everything and made the 80-mile journey — on foot! Across the dangerous countryside! — to see her. When she arrived and greeted Elizabeth, baby John leapt in utero.

It’s a beautiful witness to what we have at every Mass. The Lord and Savior is present to us, fully and completely. It’s a gift we’re given whenever we take the time to go.

We probably don’t have to make a long journey on foot across the countryside to get there. We may find ourselves taking it for granted and even tuning it out.

“Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth cried loudly to Mary.

Would she say the same to us?

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Daily Prayer

Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief.

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Family Activity

It’s time to jump in the car and take a tour of the local Christmas lights. Singing Christmas Carols while sipping hot cocoa adds to the Advent spirit!

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Luke 1:26 - 38

Full Of Grace

Yesterday, we see how Zechariah’s questioning the Angel Gabriel leads to him losing his speech for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. In today’s Gospel, Mary questions Gabriel and…gets an answer. At first, it doesn’t make sense.

As with so many things, the intention behind the words makes all the difference. Zechariah wasn’t asking an innocent question; he was challenging a miracle offered by God. On the other hand, Mary was marveling and sincerely wondering: “How can this be?” She knew how babies were made and that nothing was too much for God.

How do we know? Because Gabriel replies to her the way, you would reply to a child asking an innocent question about how something works: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” he says, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

She was already “full of grace,” perfectly and completely grace-filled. God made her that way. And we have evidence of it from how Gabriel treats her with that kind of reverence normally reserved for angels.

A four-year-old will innocently ask, “How?” without malice. It’s different from how a fourteen-year-old will demand to know why.

Mary is innocent and utterly open to the Holy Spirit. She stands as an ongoing inspiration to each of us, as we waLuke through the last days of Advent that we may be as open to joy as she was.

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Daily Prayer

God, you made me. Open me to the joy right in front of me, to the gifts you have for me in everyday life. Make my questions fruitful and innocent without the malice and demand of disbelief.

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Act of Kindness

As temperatures drop, let’s not forget those in need. Drop socks, toothpaste, razors, treats, etc., at the local homeless shelter or your church pantry. Sharing your fortune during the last week of Advent is a beautiful act of kindness.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Luke 1:5 - 25

Children Are A Gift

Children are a gift, and we are reminded of that again in today’s Gospel. Even though Zechariah and Elizabeth “were righteous in the eyes of God,” they didn’t have any children. Can you blame Zechariah for giving a verbal double-take after the fear of seeing the angel pass?

While Elizabeth was fighting all the joys and discomforts of pregnancy, her husband was speechless — literally. Maybe that was a blessing for her (and for him). Maybe it was a lesson in thinking before you speak. Perhaps it allowed him to be silent and reflect on God’s blessing.

We live in a world filled with words; not only are more books published on any given Tuesday than you could read in your lifetime, but there’s also the glut of words on the internet, in periodicals, and in emails.

What would it mean to not speak for nine months while the very thing you have prayed for all your life was underway? What must that have been like for Zechariah? How must it have felt for Elizabeth?

And what does it invite us to today? How can we respond to today’s Gospel in a way that brings us closer to Jesus?

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Daily Prayer

Dear Jesus, you offer me so much, and yet I so often question your intention for me. Help me trust you and embrace the joy Advent has for me.

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Playlist of the week

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Of the Father’s Heart Begotten

Jesus Come to Us

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Holy is His Name

Like A Shepherd

You can also visit one of the following sites for their Advent playlists. Or search for “Advent playlist” on your favorite music app for more options.

Spotify provided by TGC

Apple Music provided by TGC

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Matthew 1:18 - 25

Choose The Joy

It’s a story you have probably heard so many times it’s no longer amazing. It’s so baked into this time of year that maybe you don’t even listen to it anymore.

So take a moment and read today’s Gospel slowly. Think about each word as you’re reading it.

How is it that a young virgin was found pregnant? That wasn’t a miracle. Everyone knew how that happened.

And maybe it’s not a miracle that a man known to be righteous obeyed a sign from God.

You can find the miraculous, or you can discount it. Someone once said that for the one who believes, no proof is needed; for the one who does not believe, no proof is possible. 

Read Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus with the eyes of one who believes and with the new wonder of a child. Let it wash over you as the gift it is meant to be. Choose the joy it offers you, and be not afraid.

Jesus, as close as we are to Christmas, it can just feel like one more day of things to do. Let me choose the joy you offer and approach Christmas with that gift.

When the angel comes to Joseph in today’s Gospel, he tells him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home.” 

Joseph probably wouldn’t have called it fear. He might not have thought it was anything other than the right thing to do.

Mary, after all, was pregnant. And Joseph knew he wasn’t the father. So divorcing her quietly was a charitable action.

God, however, asks more of him. God asks him to overcome what seems like the right thing to do the godly thing. What would have happened if Joseph had said no? How would our Advent journey be different?

In his humility and openness to God, though, Joseph obeys. He may not completely understand — and who can? — but he obeys. He overcomes his fear and obeys God’s request.

What are you afraid of? What’s holding you back? How can you turn it over to God?

As we enter the last full week before Christmas, we can lean into God, knowing that the joy he offers us is a choice we’ve made, a gift we have only to accept.

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Daily Prayer

Oh God, give me the courage to obey you, even in the face of my fear and uncertainty. Use your joy to guide me closer to you.

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Advent Wreath

Light the fourth candle of the wreath after saying the special prayer below.

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Prayers for Lighting the Advent Wreath Candles

O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy Grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Through Christ our Lord.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Matthew 1:1 - 17

The Joy Of Advent

Who you know is important. Who your family is, is also important. We get a sense of that in today’s Gospel, which starts with Abraham and goes all the way to Jesus.

There are several ways to read this passage. Skim through it, see familiar names, nod, and go on. Or pause over some of the names, remembering Old Testament stories.

But there’s a lesson here for us, which ties into Advent’s joy. God didn’t just accidentally toss Jesus out there to save us. It was very deliberate, and there was a reason for each and every person listed.

There is a reason for you, too. There is a reason for this Advent.

This isn’t just well-meaning nonsense designed to get you in the “holiday spirit.” Instead, this is a steadfast promise from the God of the Universe, a covenant he made with his people and fulfilled over 2000 years ago.

You are important. You are so important that, if no one else existed, God would have still sent Jesus as a baby and had him sacrifice his life for you.

That is the joy of Advent. That is the gift God has for you.

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Daily Prayer

God, thank you for Advent and for the love you have for me. Grant me the grace to see it at work in my life today.

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Misc Activity - Food, Drink, etc.

Eggnog French Toast

Create a special Advent breakfast to fuel you during the last week leading up to Christmas

8 slices of dense, thick bread
6 eggs
1 cup eggnog
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon

Heat pan or griddle to medium heat.

Mix in a medium bowl – eggs, eggnog, and spices.

Place bread slices in egg mixture, coating each side until saturated.

Place bread slices in pan or on the griddle. Flip when lightly browned and repeat with the other side.

Friday, December 16, 2022

John 5:33 - 36

Go Beyond “Practicing”

“John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s.” (John 5:35–36)

It’s relatively easy to be a content “practicing Christian.” Go to Church every Sunday, say my prayers, contribute to the offertory collection, be kind to others, fast as necessary — knowing God loves me. It makes us feel good, and it is all good — a great initial step in a relationship with God. However, Jesus calls us to go beyond “practicing” to being an “Intentional Disciple.” He witnesses to us a wholistic sacrificial giving – he gave all that he possessed (material and spiritual) as a sacrificial offering to the Father. He shows us how it can be done and promises that we will experience immense joy if we do so.

An intentional disciple goes beyond prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. An intentional disciple decides to follow Jesus, no matter the cost. This means taking the message of the Gospel and living it out. It is courageous to take up the challenge of the Gospel and steadfastly live it out because it requires sacrifice beyond our comfort zone. It isn’t easy, but by courageously living the Gospel, we can encounter the immense love, joy, and mercy of God.

It’s not too late! Advent is a time when practice can turn into intentional. Where practice can turn into living courageously the Gospel! Take a step… begin by selecting a passage or teaching of Christ in the Gospel and live it out fully. For example,  “For when I was naked, and you clothed me, ill, and you cared for me, in prison, and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36)

Think about someone who may need help being clothed … physically it might be an elderly person who has trouble bending or stretching and putting on their socks or assisting them in changing out their shirt. Visit them and assist them with something simple but courageous… Do you know someone who is homebound or imprisoned with grief? Take the time out of your busy schedule and be with them. These simple acts are a profound testimony to your love for God. And through a courageous, even if simple, act of living out the Gospel, you will be able to grow deeper in your relationship with God and with others.

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Daily Prayer

Most Holy Father in Heaven, I desire to have a deep and personal relationship with you.  Please open my mind and heart to You more fully this Advent season so that I can turn from all fading and passing lights of this world and come to the one and profound Light of Your loving Heart. Help me to Courageously live the Gospel.

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Sunday Reading Prep

Review and reflect on the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. What message is Jesus trying to share with us? How can we use his teachings to follow Him more faithfully?

Reading I Isaiah 7:10-16

Reading II Romans 1:1-7

Gospel Matthew 1:18-25

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Luke 7:24 - 30

He is Committed

My love shall never leave you, nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:10b)

Wow! What a commitment the Lord provides! The assurance that no matter what occurs in our turbulent and changing world, there is someone we can count on, Jesus Christ! “My love shall never leave you.” God’s love will never abandon us, even in our darkest times. What a profound comfort. In this “throw-away” culture, God, who is counter-cultural, remains committed to you and to me. 

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the Way. He was the messenger referenced in Isaiah’s prophesy, the one who was sent to prepare Israel for Jesus, the Messiah. John’s mission and ministry served to point to Christ, not himself. John was a prophetic voice that drew people out to the wilderness to hear his message, but that message pointed to another that was coming… Jesus.  

Is God’s commitment to us reciprocated? We, too, are called to prepare His Way in our actions and the people we encounter. How do we show our commitment to God? Do we realize that our actions may be the only encounter with the Gospel, with Christ, others may have? Do we stay committed even when things become challenging or mundane? Can we say the same thing to God that we will never leave him, nor our covenant with him not be shaken? If we have faltered, Advent is a great way to get back on track.

Preparing the Way doesn’t require extensive schooling or a monumental action. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say, “do small things with great love, and it will make all the difference.” We may not be able to feed 5,000, but it can start with one person. We may not be able to physically heal the sick, but we may comfort someone suffering physically, mentally, or spiritually by being present with them, praying for them, and being patient with them.  These are small ways, when done with Great Love, to show our covenant with the Father.

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Daily Prayer

God, thank you. Thank you for being the One we were waiting for. Lots of important people get special treatment in our lives… we roll out the red carpet or maybe just give them a lot of our time and attention. But, of all the people we could focus our love and devotion towards, no one is more worthy than you! Help us open our hearts and minds to all you have for us this Advent season. Bless our efforts to extend the love you have shown us to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

SOURCE: Creighton University Online Ministries

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Peace be with you

Where there are loneliness and sadness, God’s peace is coming. And so, during Advent, we boldly recognize all places where our world is not peaceful. Take a moment and reflect on the reading below.

In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8