By: Gloria Hutchinson
When a tourist asked a Maine
farmer how to get to the distant town of Millinocket,
the farmer replied, “You can’t get there from here.” We might give the same
answer if asked how to get from the First Sunday of Advent to Christmas without
detouring into the traffic-jammed regions of Distraction, Frustration or
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But if we walk
mindfully, taking one Scripture-formed step at a time, we can get there from
here in a spirit of calm readiness and joyful anticipation.
First Week of Advent
Sunday: Wake from sleep
life lulls us into forgetting what we are here for and where we are heading.
Advent rouses us with a robust “Be prepared.” We do not know the time of
Christ’s coming, at the end of the world or the close of our earthly lives.
When he comes, will he find us using swords or plowshares?
Name one way you will keep watch over
your use of any wounding language that blames or belittles others.
Monday: Believers without boundaries
4:2-6; Mt 8:5-11)
it wonderful that the prayer we all offer before receiving the body and blood
of Christ comes from a so-called pagan? In his humility, the Roman centurion
insists that Jesus can cure his servant without even traveling to his bedside.
This man’s faith amazes Jesus and frees him to fulfill it. How has your faith
been enriched by others from outside the Church?
Tuesday: Answering the call
10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22)
brothers Andrew and Simon had no idea their lives would change drastically when
they cast their nets into the sea one fine day. Then along came Jesus with his
“Follow me.” That was the first day of their new lives as fishers of people who
would say yes to the gospel. How will you follow Jesus by making your faith
life a priority during Advent?
Wednesday: Feeding the hungry
25:6-10a; Mt 15:29-37)
paints God as a magnanimous host, providing rich food and the finest wines for
his guests. God not only welcomes and feeds but comforts and forgives. The Son
of God shows us this maternal face of God when he has compassion on the hungry
crowd. He is the one for whom we have waited, the one we embody when we serve
at the soup kitchen, invite the lonely to our family feasts and fuss over the
meal as though it were Christmas dinner.
Thursday: Build on the rock
26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)
is a good time to do a house inspection. Is the house of your life resting on a
rock foundation of hearing and doing the word of God? Or might it be slipping
onto the sand of good intentions that get washed away with the tide of events?
It isn’t saying “Lord, Lord,” but doing what the Lord says that prepares our
hearts to be his dwelling place.
Friday: Be healed
29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31)
two blind men need to express their faith in Jesus and he needs to be affirmed
as the healer before their sight can be restored. We sometimes doubt our
ability to make a crucial difference in the lives of those who are sick,
addicted, misguided. Spend time with Jesus in prayer, asking him about a
specific compassionate deed: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” What
will his answer surely be?
Saturday: Walk this way
30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6-8)
Isaiah shares his vision of God as our Teacher who does not leave us to find
our way alone. God is there, just over our shoulder, whispering in our ear,
“This is the way; walk in it.” It is that same voice that instructs us today to
be Christ’s ears for the elderly neighbor we listen to, Christ’s arms for the
pregnant woman we comfort, Christ’s voice for the child we guide in living by
Second Week of Advent
Sunday: Live in harmonyWe
long for the peaceable kingdom in which predator and prey live side by side,
never threatening or harming one another. John the Baptist boldly warns us to
repent of our sinfulness and prepare to welcome the Savior in whom the Kingdom
comes. On this eighth day of our Advent journey, rejoice. “Your world is
journeying to the birth / Of God made man for us on earth” (John Betjeman, “Advent
Monday: Be forgiving and giving
35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26)
endless generosity to Israel
and to us is depicted as the riotous blossoming of the desert, the
strengthening of the weak and the end of sorrow. Jesus shows this same generosity
to the paralytic, forgiving his sins and gifting him good health. In honor of
St. Nicholas today, secretly leave a gift in a child’s shoe or otherwise enjoy
Tuesday: Seek the lost
40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)
Jesus had a favorite self-image, it was most likely the Good Shepherd. Even if
99 of his 100 sheep were fine, he would still head out to track down the
wanderer. Like his Father, he does not want to lose a single “little one.” If
you have friends or family members who have left the church or lost their
faith, how will you invite them home during Advent?
Wednesday, Immaculate Conception: Say yes
3:9-15, 20; Lk 1:26-38)
Mary received a shocking invitation to mother the Messiah, she wisely inquired
how a virgin could bear a child. In faith, she accepted the assurance that
nothing is impossible with God. Conceived without sin, Mary, like the Son of
God himself, always said yes to God. If you have been saying “Maybe later” to
any of the Holy Spirit’s promptings, how will you pray your way to “Be it done
to me according to your word”?
Thursday: Praise God’s creation
41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)
bad news of oil spills, climate change and endangered species calls us to
practice good stewardship of God’s glorious creation. God delights in making
springs gush forth in the wilderness as much as he must have in bringing forth
roses in December for St. Juan Diego. How will you put your praise of creation
into environmental action?
Friday: Don’t pan the prophets
48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)
sends us in every age teachers and prophets. But when they do not fit our image
(the wrong color, gender, ethnic group) we criticize and belittle them,
refusing to accept their message. Neither Jesus nor John the Baptist could
satisfy everyone’s expectations. But, “Wisdom is vindicated by her works.” Name
a contemporary prophet whose deeds inspire you to greater goodness.
Saturday: Living simply
48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13)
the countdown to Christmas, we are bombarded by glittering commercials urging
us to spend freely. But now is the time to remember John the Baptist, dressed
in camel skin and dining on insects. He receives high praise from Jesus for
calling the people to repentance and paving the Savior’s way. How will you be moved
by the Baptist’s simple, God-centered lifestyle as a “commercial” for the true
spirit of Christmas?
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Third Week of Advent
Sunday: Be patient
children pining for Christmas morning, we know what it means to wait for what
we desire. Whether it is the safe arrival of loved ones from afar or a recovery
from cancer, we wait in prayer and patience, hope and trust. Angelus Sibelius
advises, “If in your heart you make / A manger for his birth, / Then God will
once again / Become a Child on earth.” How might you do this on Gaudete
Monday: Water the seed
24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)
Advent readings are lush with portrayals of God as a wondrous Creator of
earthly abundance and a Sower of good seed. He turns barren ground to fertile
purposes, giving life where there was only a wasteland. We invite our God to
water the seeds of faith within us. On St. Lucy’s Day, how will you be a light
for someone who is suffering the holiday blues?
Tuesday: Be true to the Word
3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)
can hold up the parable of the two sons like a mirror that reflects how well we
are doing the Father’s will. Do we say yes to the works of mercy but neglect
the poor because we “can’t find the time” to serve them? Or do we admit to our
upside-down priorities and set out to do what God desires of us? St. John of the Cross,
jailed for being true to the Word, advises us to pray for “a will that is
wholly with God, and a mind truly set upon him.”
Wednesday: Discern the signs
45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23)
John the Baptist needed to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come,”
Jesus responded by listing his deeds of compassion. He spent himself in love
for all those who needed him. By this sign, we will know him. By what signs
will others know us as Christ’s disciples?
Thursday: Embrace God’s purpose
54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)
Jesus and the Baptist were rejected by the Pharisees and legal scholars who
insisted on their own version of who the Messiah was and what his message
should be. As the Gospel puts it, “[they] rejected God’s purpose for
themselves.” In silent prayer, consider how you are fulfilling God’s purpose.
And rejoice at all the good you discover.
A time for increased vigilance
and deeper desire for the Lord who comes.
Friday, December 17: Family connections
49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17)
can imagine how pleased Jesus would have been to hear a recitation of the 42
generations connecting him with Abraham and David. But he would have been
saddened by how few of his great-grandmothers were mentioned by name.
Strengthen your own family bonds by putting together a family tree with your
children, giving special appreciation to all the mothers and grandmothers who
gave birth to the next generation.
Saturday, December 18: Angelic voices
(Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-25)
Gospels reveal precious little about the man who became Mary’s husband, and how
he overcame the cultural and religious traditions that stood between them. What
we do know is that Joseph had the courage to listen to an angel in a dream so
vivid that it could not be ignored. In what ways have you listened to angelic
Fourth Week of Advent
Sunday: God with us
have heard the angel’s announcement to Joseph so many times that we forget to
be wowed by it. A virgin will give birth to a son. His name will be “God With
Us.” Amy Grant’s song “Emmanuel, God With Us” speaks of Jesus as “A voice of
peace / To the weary ones.” If today you are burdened with holiday cares, how
will you let them go into the arms of the God who is right here, right now,
right with us, always?
Monday, December 20: The Favored One
7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)
must have been stunned by an archangel’s greeting her as the “favored one” and
by his assurance that the Lord was with her. Whatever her concerns about how
God will empower her to accomplish his plan, Mary dares to go forward, knowing
that she is loved and that she will suffer. We, too, are favored ones in God’s
eyes. What does this mean to you?
Tuesday, December 21: Honor the mothers
2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45)
easy it is to miss the reality that Elizabeth, the aged mother-to-be of John
the Baptist, is the first person in the Gospels to be described as “filled with
the Holy Spirit.”
with joy at her young relative’s pregnancy, Elizabeth shouts her praise of holy Mary and
the blessed boy in her womb. How might you, in memory of Mary and Elizabeth,
honor a pregnant woman or an overworked mother?
Wednesday, December 22: Sing out!
Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)
is so moved by Elizabeth’s
tribute to her and to her Son that she has to sing out her joy. Her Magnificat
brims over with praise for the Lord, confidence in the holiness God graced her with and
prophetic protest against powerful oppressors. Mary’s song suggests that our
prayers are sometimes too domesticated. Late Advent is a season for singing out
because “Love, the Guest, is on the way” (“People, Look East,” Eleanor
Thursday, December 23: Celebrate the little ones
3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)
a party they must have had at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah when their
only child was born. The relatives were floored when Elizabeth gave him a name that was new to the
family tree. But Zechariah agreed. The child would be called John and he would
be great in holiness. How will you celebrate your own favored children and
grandchildren this season?
Christmas Eve: A mighty savior
Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Lk 1:67-79)
the proud Jewish papa that he was, Zechariah greeted John’s birth with an animated
song of thanksgiving for the mighty Savior his son would serve. On this eve of
Christmas, we join in giving thanks for “the tender mercy of our God” who comes
to guide us in his ways of peace. How will you, like the repentant Scrooge,
“honor Christmas in [your] heart, and try to keep it all the year”?
Christmas Midnight: Welcome, Prince of Peace!
9:1-6; Lk 2:1-14)
A child is born to us. Mary and Joseph hover over him, their faces bright as
stars. Shepherds kneel in humble worship, and angels sing his glory. Brother Ox
and Sister Lamb amble up to the manger. Christ our Light has come into the
world. Our Advent journey ends in adoration.
As you gather with family and friends,
how will you represent your loved ones, especially those who are absent, around
the creche? With photos or figurines? In some other way? How will you prove the
poet’s wisdom: “The joy that you give to others / Is the joy that comes back to
you”? (John Greenleaf Whittier).
As one universal family, we welcome you,
Son of God and Prince of Peace. Alleluia!
has written several books on the
spiritual life and is a contributor to Sunday Homily Helps, Weekday
Homily Helps and St. Anthony
Messenger magazine. She has also written
several Catholic Updates.
NEXT: The Liturgical Year: Simple Facts, Deep Truths