By: Kathy Coffey
Advent calendars help us enter into the season’s delight. With each day’s reading and reflection, we advance on a path that culminates with the celebration of Christ’s birth. Let’s open the first “door.”
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Sunday readings vary according to each year’s cycle—A, B, or C. Weekday readings are the same every Advent.
A: Is 2:1–5; Rom 13:11–14; Mt 24:37–44
B: Is 63:16b–17, 19b; 64:2–7; 1 Cor 1:3–9; Mk 13:33–37
C: Jer 33:14–16; 1 Thes 3:12—4:2; Lk 21:25–28, 34–36
The Good News Begins
As days shortened, our ancestors feared the sun might never return. We too rejoice when Jesus promises tender leaves, signs of spring. We await One so good, so full of compassion, that we stand tall, heads high, eager to see him enfleshed.
MONDAY: A: Is 4:2–6; B and C: Is 2:1–5; A, B, C: Mt 8:5–11
When Will It Ever Happen?
We hear Isaiah’s image of swords turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, yet wars still rage. All are one in the Body of Christ, yet still we harm the Christ in the other, his likeness obscured by differences of nationality or religion.
TUESDAY: Is 11:1–10; Lk 10:21–24
Through a Child’s Eyes
What a relief when Jesus praises the childlike—not those set in smug certainties but those as wobbly as calves. God became a human infant to see the world with a child’s fresh wonder. A baby has no ego or accomplishment to protect but simply trusts that what is given is good. That’s all God wants us to do.
WEDNESDAY: Is 25:6–10a; Mt 15:29–37
Promise and Reality
Hunger and death are countered by Isaiah’s promise. Jesus wiped away tears by curing disease and deformity. His pity for the crowd’s hunger led to a feast of loaves and fishes. For people who hadn’t eaten in three days, that meal must have tasted like “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6).
THURSDAY: Is 26:1–6; Mt 7:21, 24–27
Gold at the Bottom of the Barrel
We can identify with Isaiah’s condemnation of “those in high places” (26:5). As Jesus taught and lived, we learn more from failure than success. By losing a little life, we gain a larger one. What have you learned from failure or disappointment?
FRIDAY: Is 29:17–24; Mt 9:27–31
No Instant, Microwave Gratification
“A very little while” (Is 29:17) can seem like an eternity. Our speed-obsessed culture has lost the art of waiting. How many dark days did the blind men endure before they met Jesus? Maybe their long wait, yearning for light, helped them answer, “Yes, Lord” to “Do you believe that I can do this?” (Mt 9:28). For what do you long? Has your long wait ever sweetened the fulfillment of a desire?
SATURDAY: Is 30:19–21, 23–26; Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6–8
Imagine a Jesus who condemns, punishes, and predicts fiery damnation. In contrast, consider how people welcome him who teaches, cures, forgives, and has pity. We, too, are sent to serve from a kingdom perspective and a brightness within.
A: Is 11:1–10; Rom 15:4–9; Mt 3:1–12
B: Is 40:1–5, 9–11; 2 Pt 3:8–14; Mk 1:1–8
C: Bar 5:1–9; Phil 1:4–6, 8–11; Lk 3:1–6
Scholars think John the Baptist mentored Jesus. In contrast to John, Jesus seems so ordinary—no weird clothes, no unusual diet, and generally not calling people “a brood of vipers.” Jesus is one with us. We try to place him on a pedestal, but he enters the flawed world of humanity and nestles beside us.
MONDAY: Is 35:1–10; Lk 5:17–26
Carried to Jesus
When we were “paralyzed” by grief or illness, what friends brought us to Jesus? Can we look back on such an experience with gratitude and astonishment? Can we “pay it forward” by helping someone else? If so, then the desert blooms.
TUESDAY: Is 40:1–11; Mt 18:12–14
Today’s Advent calendar surprise might be a sheep, looking lost and forlorn. And if one word appeared, it would be comfort. Our God is crazy with love, seeking us even in thorny brambles.
WEDNESDAY: Is 40:25–31; Mt 11:28–30
The teenager wearing the T-shirt labeled “Cleaning Crew,” the weary waitress boarding the night bus—how gratefully they might hear “I will give you rest” or “they will soar on eagles’ wings . . . run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint” (Is 40:31).
THURSDAY: Is 41:13–20; Mt 11:11–15
In the 14th century, when people were described with the disparaging terms from Isaiah’s reading today, The Cloud of Unknowing offered beauty instead: “God’s . . . grace made you and redeemed you and gave you this work, which is love.”
FRIDAY: Is 48:17–19; Mt 11:16–19
Fingers Stuck in Our Ears?
Do we ever act like the children Jesus describes today, ignoring the music and refusing to dance? If so, we miss the chance to turn minds and hearts toward wonder and beauty.
SATURDAY: Sir 48:1–4, 9–11; Mt 17:9a, 10–13
Rubber and Road
After the Transfiguration account, we see the gritty reality of a boy whose own father calls him a lunatic. As we approach Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, it’s good to remember that much of the uplifting Scripture we read came from pain, turmoil, and bloodshed in Israel’s history. We’re not the only ones to face crises at Christmas!
OCTAVE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (12/17–12/23)
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We intensify our desire for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Beginning on December 17, the weekday Mass readings are tied to the date.
THIRD SUNDAY (Gaudete “Rejoice” Sunday)
A: Is 35:1–6a, 10; Jas 5:7–10; Mt 11:2–11
B: Is 61:1–2a, 10–11; 1 Thes 5:16–24; Jn 1:6–8, 19–28
C: Zep 3:14–18a; Phil 4:4–7; Lk 3:10–18
What might John the Baptist answer us if we asked, “What then should we do?” Are we “filled with expectation” as Luke describes the crowds? Or are we too bored, numb, busy?
MONDAY: Nm 24:2–7, 15–17a; Mt 21:23–27
Blessing, Not Curse
The pagan ruler Balak, threatened by the Israelites, wants his prophet Balaam to curse them. But Balaam speaks only as God directs. He blesses the tents, comparing the Hebrew encampment to gardens, cedars, and wells. In the same way, God’s coming as Jesus is announced as blessing, not terror or dread. We have nothing to fear from our God who delights in us.
TUESDAY: Zep 3:1–2, 9–13; Mt 21:28–32
Not the “Holy Souls”
Zephaniah proclaims, “You will not be ashamed of all your deeds.” He foretells a Jesus who’s unimpressed by the braggart, pleasing son who eventually does nothing, but is impressed by the son who gives the wrong answer—and by extension those who don’t fit the narrow parameters of virtue, the despised of his society. This God, surprisingly, welcome even us.
WEDNESDAY: Is 45:6c–8, 18, 21b–25; Lk 7:18b–23
His Work Continues
Imagine the places where Jesus’ work happens today: in optometrists’ and audiologists’ offices, rehabilitation centers, drug-treatment facilities, ESL classrooms, grief-counseling groups, hospitals. As in Isaiah, the gentle rain still falls; the buds of justice open.
THURSDAY: Is 54:1–10; Lk 7:24–30
A Quiet Island in the Jollity
To those who mourn or feel lonely, God offers the deepest assurance: “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back” (Is 54:7). It’s a lovely promise to repeat while falling asleep.
FRIDAY: Is 56:1–3a, 6–8; Jn 5:33–36
At this time of year, parents anticipate visits from adult children and grandchildren; siblings await each other; lovers yearn for reunions. Jesus is also a long-desired meeting point: the human and divine intersecting. All the obstacles, rules, and hoop-jumping of earlier attempts to placate an angry, distant God end with Christ coming sweetly and simply as an infant.
A: Is 7:10–14; Rom 1:1–7; Mt 1:18–24
B: 2 Sm 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16; Rom 16:25–27; Lk 1:26–38
C: Mi 5:1–4a; Heb 10:5–10; Lk 1:39–45
Welcome to Humanity!
Advertising works by exaggeration. Jesus comes in just the opposite way: a baby too tiny to notice in an unimportant speck of the empire. We may work toward the ideal holiday—beautifully wrapped gifts and delicious meals, but there may still be awkward lapses in conversation, tired and cranky people, screaming children, and barking dogs that disrupt the caroling.
12/17: Gn 49:2, 8–10; Mt 1:1–17
A Mighty Growl
Lest we get too sentimental, Genesis compares Judah, Jesus’ ancestor, to a lion. It’s appropriate to roar at injustice, to work fiercely so that the Gospel permeates our world.
12/18: Jer 23:5–8; Mt 1:18–25
Matthew describes an unsettled time—no social approval or family nest welcomes Jesus. Much as we distrust such unstable times ourselves, they often give birth to the greatest growth.
12/19: Jgs 13:2–7, 24–25a; Lk 1:5–25
“You will have joy and gladness,” the angel tells Zechariah. But he becomes bogged down in the negative (“I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years”) and he misses the great good, the undreamt possibility becoming real.
12/20: Is 7:10–14; Lk 1:26–38
Many people who learn they’ll be a parent or become responsible for others feel perplexed and astonished as Mary did. But for all those starting a perilous new adventure comes the same reassurance: “Nothing will be impossible for God.”
12/21: Sg 2:8–14 or Zep 3:14–18a; Lk 1:39–45
An Unborn Infant Leaps
What’s good news without girlfriends to share it? Not a word of complaint from Mary or Elizabeth though their pregnancies are hardly routine. What can I praise today?
12/22: 1 Sm 1:24–28; Lk 1:46–56
Today’s calendar door opens to song. Find a musical version of “The Magnificat” (YouTube has many), listen to or sing Mary’s canticle, and reflect on it.
12/23: Mal 3:1–4, 23–24; Lk 1:57–66
The Importance of the Name
“Making all things new” starts with John’s name, a change from the clan’s past and its patriarchy. The name “Emmanuel” was first used during Ahaz’s corrupt rule. Ours isn’t the first era of disruptive change, war, and disaster.
12/24 (morning): 2 Sm 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16; Lk 1:67–79
Soon and Very Soon
“The tender mercy of our God” will blossom forth tomorrow. What glimpses of Advent grace have prepared you for this?
12/25: The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
A, B, C (Midnight): Is 9:1–6; Ti 2:11–14; Lk 2:1–14
A, B, C (Day): Is 52:7–10; Heb 1:1–6; Jn 1:1–18 or 1:1–5, 9–14
God’s Pure Gift
Some suggest that Jesus became human not to atone or rescue, but because God wanted to be better known. So God is revealed through the touch of a baby’s hand. Jesus knows how hard it is to be human, so he joins us. That is cause for rejoicing.
ADVENT FEASTS OF MARY
12/8: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Gn 3:9–15, 20; Eph 1:3–6, 11–12; Lk 1:26–38
Ephesians reminds us that we are chosen just as Mary was. At some level, we should know clearly “The Lord is with you.” What does that certainty mean in your daily life?
12/12: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Zec 2:14–17 or Rv 11:19; 12:1–6, 10; Lk 1:26–38 or 1:39–47
Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego restored life to an indigenous people so brutally colonized they had a collective death wish. Advent is a good time to look at our own yearnings. What do we most fear? For what do we most long?
Author Kathy Coffey gives many retreats and workshops. For more information about her books and talks, see
NEXT: Liturgy of the Hours (by Daria Sockey)