For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon His shoulder dominion rests. They name Him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:5
How happy we are when something for which we have been waiting a long time arrives. Perhaps it is the birth or adoption of a baby or child. The return of a loved one from war. A wedding. A new job or promotion. An acceptance by the college that was at the top of our list. These are moments of joyous celebration. Christmas is another such moment. We have been preparing and waiting for this event for weeks. Now we joyously celebrate the arrival of God on earth with music, song, and prayer, followed by family gatherings, gift giving, and good food. And Jesus is in the midst of it all because He wants to be with us. That’s how much He loves us.
Jesus, You are the reason for our joy and celebration today. You, the Son of God, have come to us. You have walked in our shoes, opened our hearts and made a home for Yourself in them. You have embraced us with Your love and opened the gates of eternal life. Today, I give You not only my thanks but my whole self. I want to follow You on earth and be with You forever in eternity. Amen.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. Isaiah 9:1
At this time of year we decorate our houses, both inside and out, with lights. Many communities and organizations, including the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, feature extensive light displays that draw thousands of people. Stores, hotels, and other public places also are ablaze with holiday lights. These lights may be simply a holiday tradition for many but for us Christians, they remind us of Jesus, the Light of the World, and of our call to be God’s light in the world today.
Jesus, the light You brought to the world is the light of hope. May Your light continue to flow to all corners of the earth, bringing love, hope, and peace to all people. And may my words and actions today and every day be lights that help others to see You in their lives. Amen.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke: 2:9-10
Angels are popular today. Many people collect angel figurines and art. Angels have even been featured in movies, television shows, and songs. The importance of angels, however, is the role they have played as God’s messengers. We, too, are God’s messengers. Unlike the angels at Bethlehem, we do not shout the good news of God’s presence in the world from our housetops. Instead, we bring God’s hope and love to others through the kindness in our everyday words and actions.
God, I so want to be Your messenger. Open my eyes and ears to the opportunities in my life each day to bring Your hope and love to others. Give me the courage to reach out to others and the strength to do Your work throughout each day. Let Your words come from my mouth and Your love flow through my actions. Amen.
They (the maji) were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11
Our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is one way we use to remind ourselves of God’s gift of Jesus to all of us. Yet, while we give material things, we are really God’s gifts to one another. Open your gift box from God and see all the people God has given you. Remember them and give thanks to God for them.
God, You have gifted me with so many loving people in my life, including family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers. I cannot begin to count the ways or times that these people have given me Your unconditional love, hope, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Some are still with me today. Others are with You in eternal life and some have moved on about their lives. I treasure all of them and thank You, God, for bringing them into my life. May I be for others what they have been and continue to be for me. Amen.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. Luke 2:8-9
Holiday festivities require a lot of ordinary chores ranging from cleaning and decorating the house to preparing and cooking food. There are gifts to be bought and wrapped, dishes to be cleaned, guest rooms to be readied, and laundry to be done. We may give little thought to these mundane chores yet it is often in these ordinary duties of life that God comes to us. Just as God came to the shepherds as they worked, He comes to us while we are engaged in the ordinary routines of our lives.
Open my eyes, God, to see You in my life. Do not let me be blinded by preoccupation or waylaid by stress. Keep me from rushing by You as I race through my day. Help me to recognize You in someone’s smile, words, and actions. Let me feel Your presence in my life at home, at work, and everywhere. Especially on this Feast of the Holy Family, be with me in bringing Your love and hope to members of my family. I need and want You by my side always. Amen.
There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
The Christmas season is the time of year when we are more generous than usual in giving to the poor. We reach out to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, and give clothing, household goods and toys to the poor. We open our hearts to the less fortunate. This year, let us also make room in our hearts for those we know who are suffering from mental illnesses, including depression, and life-threatening illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and heart problems. At this happy time of year, we don’t want to be reminded of the difficult side of life yet we can bring joy to those who are suffering.
Jesus, You came to all people, not just the healthy and the happy. Open my eyes to see the people in my circle of family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances who are suffering with illness or carrying the burden of caring for those who are ill. Let me bring them Your joy, hope, and love. Let me be the one who, through my words and actions, reminds them of Your presence in their lives. Give me the desire, patience and understanding to reach out to the sick and lonely and their caregivers. Amen.
But when the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of His mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7
The Christmas tree is a focal point in our homes during this holiday season. The whole family usually gets involved in decorating it, sometimes pausing to recall memories prompted by an heirloom ornament. We place our gifts under the tree and gather around it to visit with others and perhaps sing songs. Traditionally an evergreen, the Christmas tree reminds us of the reason Jesus was born on earth. He came to give us the gift of eternal life. Even evergreen trees die but we shall live forever.
Jesus, I give You thanks today for the great gift of eternal life. It is a wondrous gift far beyond my human comprehension. I am unworthy of this wondrous gift and Your generosity overwhelms me. How much You love me! In return, I give You my love and my whole self. Lead me and guide me throughout my life on earth so that, one day, I will be with You in eternity. Amen.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke: 2:4-7
Today, the Church honors Mary, the Mother of God. There are many reasons why Mary is important to us, but among the most significant is her role as a witness to the reality of eternal life. Her apparitions speak to this. They also help us to realize the link between the communion of saints and us on earth. Perhaps this is the reason that, during the Christmas season, our thoughts so often turn to family and friends who have died. We remember the good and the tough times we shared together. We rejoice in having known them and look forward to being with them again in eternity.
Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your mother Mary to all of us and especially to me. She is one to whom I often turn for help in growing closer to You. Thank You, also, for my family members and friends who have died. Each was a special gift from You to me. How much I still cherish them and how often I recall the many ways they brought Your love to me. I am forever grateful to You for them. Help me to follow their example in my relationships with family members and friends. Amen.
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. 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 in her. She will bear a Son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1:18-21, 24
Our holiday celebrations are filled with traditions—decorating, preparing special foods, participating in Midnight Mass, gathering with family and friends. Such traditions are good. But in our everyday lives, we need to avoid getting stuck in a rut. Jesus came to call us to change and to a different way of life. At God’s command, Joseph broke with tradition and took the pregnant Mary into his house as his wife. There are times when God calls us to similar life-changing actions. God may be calling us to marriage, to a new job, to a new home and community, to volunteer work or a new friendship. At those times, we must be willing to break with the past and try the new. Only God knows what adventures and rewards He has in store for us.
Do not let me grow too comfortable in my ways, Jesus. Help me to hear Your call to change. And bring about the changes in my heart and mind that will enable me to respond to Your call. Break the chains that keep me from being the loving, compassionate person You want me to be. I am Yours and I want to do Your work. But I need a lot of help from You. Amen.