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Gloria Hutchinson takes readers on a gentle journey through the season of Advent, offering a break from the hectic activities of this month before Christmas.

A Joyful Journey: Advent Day by Day
By: Gloria Hutchinson

Each issue carries an imprimatur from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
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 All-out Anxiety.
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

Daily 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

(Is 4:2-6; Mt 8:5-11)
Isn’t 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

(Rom 10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22)
The 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

(Is 25:6-10a; Mt 15:29-37)
Isaiah 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

(Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)
Advent 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

(Is 29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31)
The 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

(Is 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 faith.

Second Week of Advent

Sunday: Live in harmony

We 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 1955”).

Monday: Be forgiving and giving

(Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26)
God’s 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 being generous.

Tuesday: Seek the lost

(Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)
If 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

(Gn 3:9-15, 20; Lk 1:26-38)
When 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

(Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)
The 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

(Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)
God 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

(Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13) 
During 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

Like 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 (Rejoice!) Sunday?

Monday: Water the seed

(Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)
Our 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

(Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)
We 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

(Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23)
When 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

(Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)
Both 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.

Late Advent

A time for increased vigilance and deeper desire for the Lord who comes.

Friday, December 17: Family connections

(Gn 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17)
We 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)
The 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 voices?

Fourth Week of Advent

Sunday: God with us

We 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

(Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)
Mary 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

(Sg 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45)
How 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.”
Overcome 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!

(1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)
Mary 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 Farjeon).

Thursday, December 23: Celebrate the little ones

(Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)
What 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

(2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Lk 1:67-79)
Like 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!

(Is 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!

Gloria Hutchinson 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

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Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog The ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. If the Christ is the archetype of the full human journey, now we know how it all resolves itself in the end. “So that where I am, you also will be” (John 14:3).

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