One morning this past week, when in prayer and meditation, I remembered that Mary and Joseph had a tremendously difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem fulfilling the will of God in their lives and the lives of all humankind, a journey imposed on all residents of Galilee and beyond, by the decree of a secular authority, not a Jewish one, so that God’s only Son Jesus, the long awaited Messiah,  would be born in the fullness of time. This journey might have seemed almost impossible  for Joseph and his wife Mary, for Mary’s first child’s birth would be imminent, and this journey would be taken on a donkey to a distant city to give birth to their first precious child among strangers in a very disagreeable lodging. And yet, there is such joy and wonder when I contemplate the Saviour’s birth, I hardly know how to contain it inside me. So must it have been with the Holy Family. The wonder of these events grew with each laborious step towards Bethlehem, each encounter with strangers, each terrifying birthing pain as the moment of delivery approached, each home that closed the door to them in their greatest need, each visit from amazed and curious Shepherds and their obedient flocks,  and from soul searching wise and rich men, all converging at the manger in a stable in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph did not have a “cosy, sit by the fire and drink egg nog type of Christmas”, as I sometimes think they deserved for the birth of their son, who is also the Son of God. (And I selfishly hope for comfortable Christmases too.)  And Mary’s response: she pondered all these events in her heart. What an example for us to follow in this young, humble, generous Jewish girl, who said “Yes” to her call from God the Father.
So, I know it is the same for you and your family this Christmas and New Year. I know that there is joy and peace and hope, that can hardly be contained, and you continue to share this joy with everyone around you.

Readings to reflect upon:

Numbers 6:22-27

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalms 67 and 72

Galatians 4:4-7

Ephesians 3:2-6

Luke 2:16-21

Matthew 2:1-12

Solemn Blessing:

May God, the source and origin of all blessing, grant you grace, pour out His blessing in abundance, and keep you safe from harm throughout the year. Amen.

May He give you integrity in the faith, endurance in hope, and perseverance in charity with holy patience to the end. Amen.

May He order your days and your deeds in His peace, grant your prayers in this  and in every place, and lead you happily to eternal life. Amen.

And may the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, come down on you and remain with you forever.Amen.


“Keep awake therefore,
for you do not know  on what day your Lord is coming.
But understand this:
if the owner of the house had known
in what part of the night the thief was
he would have stayed awake
and would not let the house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready.
for  the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Matthew 24: 42-44

“Ann, it’s not the news you want to hear: The diagnosis is positive – you have breast cancer.”  The doctor’s words resounded like a bomb going off in my head, gripping my whole being with terror.  They sounded like a death sentence and I wasn’t ready to die.  What followed in the subsequent weeks and months was a relentless plea to God to pull me through this, to save my mortal life.  The imminent meeting of my Lord and Saviour was not something I welcomed or expected so soon.
Contrast my response to that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who welcomed with joy the news of her impending death.   “Oh, how sweet this memory really is.  After remaining at the Tomb [The Altar of Reparation] until midnight, I returned to our cell but I had scarcely laid my head upon the pillow when I felt something like a bubbling stream mounting to my lips.  I didn’t know what it was, but I thought I was going to die and my soul was filled with joy.  However, as our lamp was extinguished, I told myself I would have to wait until the morning to be certain of my good fortune, for it seemed to me that it was blood that I had coughed up.  The morning was not long in coming; upon awakening, I thought immediately of the joyful thing that I had to learn, and so I went over to the window.  I was able to see that I was not mistaken.  Ah! my soul was filled with a great consolation; I was interiorly persuaded that Jesus, on the anniversary of His own death, wanted to have me hear His first call..  It was like a sweet and distant murmur that announced the Bridegroom’s arrival” (St. Thérèse 210).
As we journey through the season of Advent, it may seem odd that the liturgical readings do not focus on the celebration of the birth of  the newborn Child, Jesus, but rather on the saving mission of His life, death and resurrection and on His return in glory at the end of time. The birth of Jesus, God’s coming to earth as a human being, must necessarily be acknowledges and celebrated, but the fulfillment of His mission is at the end of His life at his death and resurrection. In the words of C. S. Lewis “God descends to ascend” and bring my flawed and ruined self into eternal joy with Him in heaven.
Waiting in joyful hope for the coming of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ is my focus this Advent; there is no room for fear.  Cards, gifts, lights, music and gatherings with friends and family captivate and allure, but more importantly I must be drawn to the ultimate gift that Jesus earned by His Cross and Resurrection for me and for all people.  Trusting in the certainty that all will be well, I must get to work, engage in the challenges of life and this Advent “walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2: 5)
Think about experiences in which you have become aware of the preciousness of time and the fragility of life.
Jesus saves you.  Open your heart to contemplate this reality in joy and hope.  Give thanks to God.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.
Commit to meeting your Messiah moment by moment in the joys and struggles of this day.
Lord Jesus, come awaken in my heart the truth of your merciful love.  Deepen my longing for you, so that my waiting may be full of joy and hope.  Come Lord Jesus.