Advent Reflection: A Strange Way to Save the World

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Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

Luke 1:30-31

Why do you think God chose to enter our world in humble circumstances? If the incarnation occurred today, where do you think Jesus would live? Who would his mother be? Who would he call as his apostles?

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Going Deeper

Read Luke 1:26-38.

The words “You’re going to have a baby” can elicit all kinds of emotions: excitement, fear, contentment, anxiety, anticipation, worry, or joy.

What if the words “You’re going to have a baby” were followed by “He will be called Son of the Most High” and “Of his kingdom there will be no end”? Luke tells us that Mary was troubled. I imagine she also felt confused, overwhelmed, and maybe a little scared. It must have been hard for her to understand why God would enter the world as the son of a single teenage girl in a working class family.

When the Father chose to send his Son into our world, he had his choice of locations and circumstances. Jesus could have entered the world as the son of royalty, living a comfortable life and using the resources of the palace to spread his message. Jesus could have descended from heaven as a grown man, shared his wisdom, and then ascended back to heaven, skipping all the messiness of the stable and the cross.

As you reflect on how God chose to enter our world, listen to “Strange Way to Save the World.”

Advent Reflection: God’s Faithfulness Throughout History

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“Arise, bless the Lord, your God, from eternity to eternity!”

“And may they bless your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

Nehemiah 9:5b

Recall times in your life when you have experienced God’s faithfulness, mercy, and generosity.

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Going Deeper

Read Nehemiah 9:5-32.

We have spent our Advent season looking back at the history of God’s people, from creation up to the prophecies about Emmanuel, God with us. In this passage from Nehemiah, the Levites do the same, reminding the people of their history and pointing out that, through it all, God has been faithful to his promises, merciful and forgiving when the people turned away, and just and generous, providing for their needs.

We can benefit from doing the same thing, looking back on our own lives.

Make a list of the major events and seasons in your life. Look over that list and write down how God was working in your life during each of those times. (It’s okay if some of them are blank. We know that God wasn’t MIA during those times. He just hasn’t revealed to us yet how he was working.)

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Take that list to God in prayer. Thank God for his faithfulness throughout your life. If there are periods in your life when it seemed like God was far away, talk to him about it. Let God know that you trust him to guide you through the current chapter in your life. Communicate your confidence that he will be with you wherever life takes you in the future.

Advent Reflection: Where will you encounter Christ this Christmas?

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I will stand at my guard post and station myself upon the rampart;

I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what answer he will give to my complaint.

Habakkuk 2:1

As you finish your preparations and begin your celebration of Christmas, watch for the unique ways that Christ enters into your holiday activities. Look for opportunities to be the face of Christ to other people.

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Going Deeper

Read Habbakuk 1:1-5.

If you’ve watched the evening news lately, you can relate to Habbakuk’s distress (verses 2-4). Just like Habbakuk, we see violence, iniquity, destruction, strife, and discord all around us. Do you trust that, as the Lord promised Habbakuk, “a work is being done in your days that you would not believe, were it told”? God is at work in our world, even when all signs seem to indicate otherwise. Won’t it be exciting when we get to heaven and learn about all of the ways God’s been working behind the scenes?

God wants to be part of your Christmas preparation and celebration. You don’t need a perfectly baked ham, an immaculately clean house, or exactly the right gift to get God to show up at your party. He’ll be there. Will you be watching for him, or will you be so busy and distracted that you miss him?

Take a three-minute break from the busy-ness of the day, and pray along with the song “Open My Eyes”.

Advent Reflection: Who is Jesus?

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For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:5

Which of the titles for Jesus resonates with you? Why is that title particularly meaningful?

Going Deeper

Read Isaiah 9:1-6.

Speaking in the eighth century B.C., Isaiah offered hope and a promise of God’s provision to a people who were scared and turning to neighboring countries for safety and protection. While the timing of the arrival of the Prince of Peace may not have been what Isaiah and the people of Judah expected, the Lord was faithful in fulfilling his promise.

Isaiah offers four titles for Jesus:

Wonder-Counselor

God-Hero

Father-Forever

Prince of Peace.

Below are some other Biblical titles/descriptions of Jesus.

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Select one or two of the titles for Jesus and reflect on what they mean for your life and your relationship with Christ.

Advent Reflection: You are called!

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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

Where is God calling you today? Will you go?

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Going Deeper

Read Isaiah 6:1-8.

Over and over in the Bible, we read stories of people being called: prophets anoint young boys who will become kings; Jesus invites fishermen and tax collectors to follow him, and they do; Mordecai challenges Esther to speak up for her people, stating “perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen” (from Esther 4:14); and God calls Isaiah with the rather leading question “Whom shall I send?”. It may seem like “the call” is only for kings, prophets, and priests. And maybe that’s true—because at Baptism we were all called to share in Christ’s roles as priest, prophet, and king.

Each one of us receives many calls in a lifetime. Through Baptism, we are called to love God and our neighbors. The vocation to which we are called (marriage, religious life, priesthood, dedicated single life, etc.) shows us the setting in which we will live out our call to love. We may also be called to different jobs, missions, or service activities at different times in our lives.

Have you felt a pull, or call to something different in your life? Pray about that pull you are feeling. Open yourself to God’s plan, trusting in his wisdom.

Think about the words as you sing along with this familiar hymn.

Advent Reflection: Simple is not always easy!

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So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

II Kings 5:14

Has there been a time in your life when you’ve experienced healing or blessing from an unexpected source?

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Going Deeper

Read II Kings 5:1-17.

What God asks of us is often simple. Naaman expected to pay an extravagant price and was willing to do any number of complicated things to merit healing.

However, what is simple is not always easy. All Naaman had to do was wash in the Jordan River. But the Jordan was small and muddy, especially compared to the great rivers in other parts of the world. His pride almost prevented Naaman from doing the one simple thing that he needed to do to be healed.

In my life, I have seen this idea (simple but not easy) borne out in the area of sharing my faith. The directive is simple: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” (from I Peter 3:15) But carrying it out can be difficult and scary. I can remember a couple of different times when I’ve been involved in a conversation that developed into a perfect opportunity for me to share a story of how God has worked in my life. Both times I recognized the opportunity, but then I got scared and said nothing.

Thinking about the situations later, I tried to figure out what I was scared of. The people I was talking with were close friends who knew that my faith was important to me. I wasn’t afraid of what they would think of me. I realized that I was scared that my friends would be dismissive of my story, assuming that what happened had nothing to do with God. I was afraid they would trivialize this essential part of my life.

I’ve since realized that God can handle people’s indifference and even hostility toward him—after all, he’s been dealing with it as long as people have lived on earth. It’s not my job to change people’s minds through my brilliant stories and irrefutable arguments. It’s my job to speak the truth about my experiences of God and to be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks the reason for my hope—always.

What is your faith story? Practice telling your story out loud. Is there someone in your life who needs to hear that story?

Advent Reflection: What “gods” do you follow?

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Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him.

I Kings 18:21

Is God the only god in your life?

Going Deeper

Read I Kings 18:21-39.

We don’t run into too many people who worship Baal these days. But a lot of us try to “straddle the issue,” dividing our attention between God and the other “gods” in our lives. Our 21st Century “gods” include money, power, self-sufficiency, recognition, career, security, and addictions. Even good things, like volunteering at church, can become “gods” if we are doing them for the wrong reason, or if they become more important than cultivating our relationship with God.

What threatens to become a “god” in your life? Write those things down on a piece of paper. Pray that God will help you keep what’s written on that paper in proper perspective. If you can do it safely, burn the piece of paper. (If you don’t have a place where you can safely burn it, cut or tear it into small pieces.) While doing this, say, “You, Lord, are my God. I will not have other gods beside you.” (Adapted from Exodus 20:2-3, Deuteronomy 5:6-7)

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