Skip to comments.Reflections for Advent and Christmas, [November 28, 2004 - January 9, 2005
Posted on 11/29/2004 7:22:57 PM PST by Salvation
Six minutes a day.
That's what you are asked to give during these next 43 days -- the 27 days of Advent Season, and the 16 days of the Christmas Season.
The key to the second post for each day (except Sundays) will be walking through the first part of Matthew's Gospel a little bit at a time.
The key to the first post is like a buffet table with a variety of thoughts about the Advent and Christams Seasons, the feast of the day, and various traditions and customs.
All of this provides the framwwork for you to enjoy one of the oldest traditions of prayer called "Lectio Divina" -- sacred reading. Take a short Scripture passage and simply let God speak to you through the words, guiding you to reflections that seem to come from nowhere.
People are often surprised at how easy it is to pray this way, and how deep each prayer can be.
It can change your day...change your life.
27 Days till Christmas
and theyll probably be busier than any other 27 day stretch of the year.
Something gets in us and we begin thinking weve got to find ways to make this years Christmas bigger than last years. Whatever surprise gift we pulled off last year, this years has to be bigger. Whatever decorating we did last year, this years has to outdo it.
If thats the race were caught in, we ought to get off the track. Instead of bigger think better. Or, instead of bigger think different.
The point is to enjoy the feast of Christmas even more, not take the fun out of it. This is a wonderful time of year, one that is dear to us, rich in memories and customs, with sights, sounds, smells all round that make us glad were human beings.
That fits because were celebrating how glad we are that God became a human being.
Today the Church lights the first of four candles on the Advent wreath. Perhaps you will want to light a candle too.
Advent and Christmas Plans
Take some quiet time and begin to sketch out some ideas on how you can spend these 27 days of Advent well.
Your plans can be practical (your gift list) personal (sending a Christmas card to someone youve not been on good terms with) charitable (doing something for the poor) spiritual (making sure you have religious symbols in your home). Experience has shown that if you write it down youre much more likely to do it!
Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Prayer Ping List.
Matthews Infancy Narrative
Matthews Gospel is the English translation has about 21,000 words (744 sentences). Of those, only about 1,000 words (43 sentences) are devoted to the story of the birth and infancy of Jesus.
Yet these are among the best-known and best-loved words of the entire Gospel, capturing the imagination of young and old, and providing a rich source for poets, artists and storytellers.
Only two Gospel writers tell the infancy story, and each tells it differently. Luke centers on Mary, Matthew centers on Joseph. Each wrote independently of the other, and each had traditions and sources the other did not have.
Their stories are like two portraits of the same person, done by two different artists. In Christmas pageants and crib scenes we tend to blend the two. It may come as a surprise to realize, however, that Matthews account has no annunciation to Mary, no journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, no need to find a room in the inn, no manger, no angelic choir, no shepherds.
Matthews portrait has a certain heaviness, a touch of sadness, with hints of the Passion Narrative along the way. He emphasized that Jesus was born, not into a make believe world, but into the same imperfect world we know so well.
There is value in each portrait, not only to appreciate the artistry of each, but to understand better the message each intends to convey. In the following reflelctions we will be walking through Matthews story.
Take another look at the Advent plans sketched out yesterday.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar (Matthew 1:1-2)
These are the opening words of Matthews Gospel. He begins with the basics the genealogy of Jesus.
Matthew wants to establish that Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited Son of David who would fulfill Old Testament prophecies. Thats why he works downward from Abraham, through David, to Jesus. (Luke, in his genealogy, starts with Jesus and work upward to Adam. He wants to establish that Jesus is the Son of God.)
Both Matthew and Luke drew upon popular traditions (rather than written records), and both adapted the data. They are trying to establish Jesus theological identity, not his DNA.
Like all of us, Jesus was part of a family. Families, every one of them, have complications. God can turn them into blessings.
Jesus family had plenty of skeletons in the closet. Probably your family is no different. They are still your family.
This is a good time of year to mend some family ties.
May the Lord God bless you, my dear, and His holy angels attend you.
Women in Matthews Genealogy
Membership in a tribe was important back then, which is why people knew their genealogy. It didnt have to be strictly biological (the main interest of genealogies today). The genealogy simply showed that a person had roots in a particular tribe and was accepted as a member.
Matthews genealogy of Jesus mentions five women, most unusual back when ones lineage was traced solely through the father. The women are:
Tamar: Judah, one of the sons of Jacob, married Tamar after she pretended that she was a prostitute.
Rahab: She had been a prostitute in Jericho, and it was only through her help that Israel conquered that city.
Ruth: Her marriage with Boaz started as an illicit relationship. Their son became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David the beginning of the House of David from which the Messiah was to be born.
Bathsheba: While her husband was away in battle, David commited adultery with her, and Solomon was born.
Mary: She was found to be with child before her marriage to Joseph was finalized.
Feast of St. Andrew
Today is the feast of St. Andrew the apostle. He is regarded as the patron of Scotland and Russia.
Thank YOU, dear lady. It was your father who got this whole thing started!
My only hope is that the postings I do, bring people closer to God, Fathr, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(Matthews genealogy has a long list of 48 names. Yesterday we saw how it began, and now we see how it ends.
Elezar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations. (Matthew 1:15-17)
The orderly sequence of generations (14/14/14) is not strictly historical. Matthews intent is to teach that the events leading up to the birth of Jesus were part of Gods careful plan.
The chain of events leading up to our birth is part of Gods plan too. Our family tree may not be a chart of unmixed glory, but the same is true of Jesus family tree.
As the old saying goes, God writes straight with crooked lines. In ways we cannot understand, God managed to work through human events.
Think about it. Our own birth into this world was part of Gods plan. Thats worth saying again: I am part of Gods plan. Whatever twists and turns there are along the way (including some of my own doing), God still wants to work through me.
Today is no exception.
Oops, #9 should have said: Tuesday.
St. Edmund Campion
Born January 24, 1540, in London, Edmund Campion was the son of a Catholic bookseller whose family converted to Anglicanism. The young boy planned to enter his fathers trade, but his brilliance and oratorical skill earned him an Oxford scholarship. There, Edmund came under the patronage of the Earl of Dudley, a court favorite of Elizabeth I. She offered Edmund a deaconate in the Church of England.
But Edmund had begun to feel drawn to Catholicism. He fled the country, joined the Jesuits, and was ordained a priest in 1578.
After several years, the Jesuits asked him to return to London as an underground priest. He entered the country disguised as a jewel merchant.
Before long his presence became known, especially when he published documents encouraging Catholic to remain steadfast in their faith. In 1581 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Brought to trial after torture on the rack, Edmund Campion was found guilty and on December 1, 1581, was hanged, drawn and quartered. Parts of his body were displayed at each of Londons four city gates.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19)
In that time and culture, marriage involved two steps spread out over one or two years:
1. Betrothal: A formal exchange of consent before witnesses. This usually took place when the bride was 12 or 13 years old. She legally belonged to her husband from then on, and the bond could be broken only by a legal divorce.
2. The taking of the bride into the grooms family home. This usually took place a year or two later.
At this point in Matthews account only step #1 has taken place. (Matthew tells us what Joseph does not yet know: She was with child through the Holy Spirit.)
In the strict interpretation of the law, Mary would be stoned to death. But Joseph planned to apply it more mercifully by quietly divorcing her.
The Latin word for mercy is misricordia which literally means a heart filled with misery. In his own heart, Joseph felt the misery of Mary, the woman he loved.
Mercy surrounded Jesus from the first moments of his human life. May it surround all Gods children. May I, like Joseph, bring my share of mercy to this world today, tomorrow. There will be plenty of chances.
St. Jean the Playful
Born April 10, 1953, Jean Donovan was the younger of two children raised in an upper-middle class family in Connecticut.
Jean was juggling a successful business career with her volunteer work in the Cleveland Diocese Youth Ministry with the poor, when she learned about a diocesan mission project in El Salvador.
She volunteered to go, underwent training, and arrived in El Salvador in July 1979. It was a dangerous time to be in the Central American country. Political unrest was broiling and the Catholic Church became a popular target.
Jean helped distribute food for the poor and refugees, and worked on family education programs. She was loved by the people who dubbed the outgoing young woman, St. Jean the Playful.
Jean also became devoted to Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, often traveling to the cathedral on Sundays to hear his homilies. When he was assassinated, she was among those who kept vigil at his coffin. When family and friends questioned the wisdom of her work in the war-torn country, she reassured them, They dont kill blond-haired blue-eyed Americans. But she was wrong.
Jean Donovan, along with three U. S. women religious, was killed by a death squad in El Salvador on this day in 1980.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived. (Matthew 1:20)
We have here Matthews announcement of the annunciation to Joseph.
Dreams play an important part in Matthews account of the birth of Jesus. There are five of them four to Joseph and one to the Magi.
The angel gives Joseph some astonishing news: His wife, Mary, has conceived a child by the power of God!
Were back to a fundamental truth: God works through human beings. As routine, secular, mundane, plain as a day may seem, God acts through me to accomplish great things. They may seem small, but in the eons of Gods plan, theyre like the mustard seed which when full-grown is the largest of plants.
I wonder how God wants to work through me today?
St. Cassian of Tangier
Today is the feast of St. Cassian of Tangier.
In 298 A. D., a celebration of Emperor Maximians birthday took place in the ancient Phoenician city Tingis (known today as Tangiers, Morocco),. When the Christian centurion Marcellus refused to sacrifice to the gods because he felt it was idolatrous, he was arrested and thrown in prison. Marcellus pleaded guilty to dishonoring his allegiance to the Emperor, and was sentenced to death.
According to legend, Cassian was the court reporter at the trial. He became so upset at the sentence that he refused to report the proceedings. Cassian was also arrested, tried under the same charges as Maecellus, and was martyred
St. Cassian is the patron of stenographers.
Today is also the feast of St. Francis Xavier, great disciple to the eastern nations.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Joseph now learns that Mary is carrying a son. He is to be name Jesus. This is a shortened form of the Hebrew name, Joshua. It literally meant Yahweh helps.
As often with names, it also had a popular meaning drawn from a Hebrew root which meant salvation. It is this popular meaning that Matthew uses here he will save his people from their sins.
From the very beginning and until the day he died, it was clear that Jesus came for sinners. This had particular meaning for the apostle Matthew whose name, some years later, was attached to this Gospel.
Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, Follow me. And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? (Mt 9:9-11
Jesus never backed away from the charge of eating and drinking with sinners. He responded, Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. It was true then, and its true now.
I never have to waffle when talking to the Lord about my problems. He was born for this.
In 1942, Gerhart Reigner was a lawyer at the World Jewish Congress when he learned from a German industrialist of the Nazi plan to slaughter European Jews.
Alarmed, Reigner sent a desperate cable to the U. S. State Department and the British Foreign Office, even detailing Hitlers plan to use prussic acid to commit the exterminations.
But no one believed him.
Never did I feel so strongly the sense of abandonment, powerlessness and loneliness as when I sent a message of disaster and horror to the free world and no one believed me, Reigner later wrote in his memoirs.
After the war, Reigner vowed to dedicate his life to building bridges between the Jewish people and other religious (particularly the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches), so that the Jewish community would not be isolated and at risk again.
Reigner became the first Jewish observer to participate in Vatican II, and later John Paul II named him a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory.
Reigner died on this date in 2001.
Eighteen months after Reigners telegram was sent, President Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board to try to save Jews.
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