“I want a Christmas that whispers ‘Jesus’.” - Ann Voskamp
Yesterday, St. Finnan's and Maison Shalom House hosted a wonderful event which included a talk, Mass and a fabulous lunch. Fr. Kevin Maloney was the guest speaker. He spoke about preparing for Advent.
Now maybe you are saying to yourself "I thought Advent was the preparation for Christmas?!" And you would certainly be right. But how often have you started your Advent with the best of intentions but before you know it Christmas shopping, baking, cleaning and decorating have taken over and now it's Christmas Day!!
While all those things are certainly important, this is also why it is good to take a step back and plan how you will live Advent 2023 - before it actually starts! In his talk, Fr. Kevin gave us 3 simple assignments to do over the coming 24 days.
The 3 assignements he proposes are inspired by 3 key figures, or witnesses, that we read about during the days leading up to Christmas.
The First Witness - Isaiah
First up is the prophet Isaiah. A lot of our readings during Advent come from this book of the Bible. Isaiah is a witness of HOPE.
Therefore, you will be given this sign by the Lord himself: The virgin will be with child, and she will give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
This message of hope, of the coming of the Messiah was not just meant for the Jewish people of 740 B.C. These words are meant for us here today.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1)
Assignment #1 - Get a single candle and pray for peace
Ligth your candle each day during Advent and say a prayer for peace - peace is definitely the hope our world needs during these dark days of war in so many corners of the world.
O Almighty God,
who can bring good out of evil
and makes even the wrath of man to turn to your praise,
we ask you so to order and eliminate the issue of this violence,
that we may be brought through strife to a lasting peace
and that the nations of the world may be united in a firmer fellowship
for the promotion of your glory and the good of all mankind.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. (War Prayers for a Week)
The Second Witness - John the Baptist
John the Baptist called the people of Israel to renewal. When John preached, it had such an impact on so many that they would ask to be washed clean - to be baptized for the foregivness of their sins.
We are all in need of renewal. We need to acknowledge before God our own sinfulness, to ask him to come into our lives.
Assignment #2 - Invite someone to come with you to a penitential service
John the Baptist did not force people to be baptized, he only invited. Consider inviting your children, your grandchildren or someone else to come with you to a penitential service. When you do, you may be surprised.
The Third Witness - Mary
The Annuciation, our Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Advent, is the story of a willingness to participate in the plan of God.
Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
What about each one of us? What plan does God have for us right now? Are we, like Mary, willing to say I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done according to your word?
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)
The second aspect of this story is that Mary, in going to visit her cousin, becomes the first missionary.
For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be[e] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. (Luke 1:44-45)
We are called, like Mary, to bring the Good News to others.
Assignment #3 - Two prayers and a visit
Sometimes the greatest prayers are the simple ones we find in scripture. This short prayer was recited by Mary, by Jesus, by Stephen the first martyr:
"Into your hands Lord, I commend my spirit."
The second prayer is often referred to as the Jesus Prayer:
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
Be like Mary, say these 2 short prayers of surrender daily.
The 2nd part of this third assignment is to ask yourself if someone you know could use a visit. Is there someone who, especially at this time of year, may be lonely or not able to get out. Could you visit them or even just call them. Let them know that someone cares.
These are your Advent assignments...if you choose to accept them.