John the Baptist–our model in preparing for Jesus’ arrival

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Fourth Sunday of Advent 12/21/14

Even before he was born, John the Baptist knew that Jesus was something special. When both women were pregnant, Jesus’ mother Mary visited John’s mother Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:41a)

When you notice Jesus’ presence in your holiday preparations and celebrations, don’t be afraid to leap or sing or dance for joy. It truly is amazing that God came into our world as one of us and continues to make his presence known in our lives. Let’s celebrate!

John later paved the way for Jesus’ ministry, prompting people to repent, preparing them to receive Jesus’ teachings.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert; ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ “

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed. “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.’ “

Mark 1:2-8

What can we learn from John about preparing the way for Jesus? Reflect on the questions below while you listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuUl522_8jQ

-John lived simply. Because he didn’t worry about having a nice house, fancy food or stylish clothing, he was able to keep his whole life focused on Jesus. Is there something you can simplify in your holiday celebrations this year, that will allow you to focus more on Jesus? 

-John was humble. He didn’t see himself as better than others. He didn’t try to lift himself up. Instead he lifted Jesus up. When you bake cookies, host parties, send card and give gifts, what is your real motivation? Are you trying to impress other people; to make yourself look good? Or are you trying to point people to Jesus?

-John brought out the best in the people around him. When you gather with family and friends for Christmas, are you looking for the best in those people? Who are you most dreading spending time with this holiday? Write down five things you appreciate about that person. Share at least one of those things with that person.

Glory to God in the Highest!

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Third Sunday of Advent 12/14/14 Gaudete Sunday

For the remainder of the Advent season, we will reflect on how different people prepared for and responded to the birth of Jesus.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping 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. 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. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14

Jesus’ birth was such an extraordinary event, it prompted a multitude of angels to fill the sky. The angels responded to Jesus’ birth with rejoicing and praise. In today’s reading from the First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:16-18) we are instructed to: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Throughout the rest of Advent, look for little reasons to rejoice. For example, yesterday I found joy in drivers who yielded for me on narrow neighborhood streets, fudge that set up like it was supposed to, and a kitchen full of clean dishes. Let those little opportunities to rejoice remind you of the ultimate source of all of our joy.

Do the angels’ words sound familiar to you? At Mass, when we sing or say the Gloria, we are joining in the angels’ prayer of praise from the night of Jesus’ birth. What a joy, to sing with the angels!

Take a moment, right now, to praise God. Think of the attributes of God for which you are most grateful. Express your praise by singing it, saying it, writing it, imagining it, drawing it, or dancing it.

There are many great songs about the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth. Choose your favorite, or check out one that may not be as familiar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1hlfyvNaTo

“Gaudete” means “rejoice.” On this third Sunday of Advent we light a rose candle with joyful expectancy. Our time of waiting is almost complete; Jesus is near. Along with the angels, we look forward with joy to celebrating Christ’s coming.