Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Waiting for a Message of Hope

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

We are now entering Advent, the four Sundays of preparation before we celebrate the birth of Our Savior. For most of us, December is a busy month of shopping, cooking and baking, entertaining, traveling, and savoring time with our families.

I ask to you to take a moment in the midst of it all to ponder what “advent” means. The word’s origins are in the Latin word for “coming.” It means the arrival of something notable or important, such as the advent of the printing press, television or the internet. You get the idea.

In the Catholic Church, Advent points toward the arrival of the most notable and important event—the coming of Christ. It is a time of preparation, expectation and waiting, which are reflected in the liturgies and rituals.

So in the hustle and bustle of the season, slow down for a few minutes. Let your mind and your soul contemplate the expectation. Let them wait.

In our contemplation we can glimpse fleetingly the experience of people 2 millennia ago—the fear and despair of a world that God seemed to have abandoned and the hope that something was about to happen that would change everything.

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A Chime of Nativity

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Palestinian Issa Abu Atta places chimes inside olivewood nativities at a crafters workshop in Beit Sahour, West Bank.

Supported by CRS’s Fair Trade Fund and The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society, such programs were formed to counter the deterioration of the local handcrafts industry, which was threatened by regional conflict.

CRS buys the handcrafts through SERRV Fair Trade Organization. Photo by Debbie Hill for CRS

Advent Reflection, Day 26: Christmas Day

Thursday, December 25th, 2008
Afghan mountains

The rolling green mountains of Afghanistan. Photo by Martin Lueders for CRS

Today’s Readings

We are one body, one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone.
- Dana Scallon, an Irish Catholic songwriter

Today we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus, but also the new birth of ourselves as perpetrators of Jesus’ work. May we find peace and Divine happiness in our hearts and minds. May we honor each other and make known our holy desires. In solidarity and remembrance with those suffering throughout the world today, we pray together:

Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in spite of human failure.
Give us the faith to trust Your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness.
Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts.
And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace.

- Frank Borman, Commander of the Apollo 8 space mission
(Borman, a Christian, is famous for his reading of the Book of Genesis during a TV transmission on Christmas Eve, 1968.)

Act: Listen to or read Pope Benedict’s Vatican Christmas celebration.

Advent Reflection, Day 25

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
feeding program

Beneficiaries of the Missionaries of Charity feeding program in Madagascar. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Today’s Readings

There is no way to peace; peace is the way.
- A.J. Muste, non-violence and social justice advocate

We all participate in Christmas traditions that convey a hope for peace. Many of us celebrate the holidays by sharing meals with family and friends, a gathering of peace. We sing carols with lyrics that invite us to pray for peace throughout the world. Today and tomorrow, our mealtimes will be eaten in solidarity with one another. Catholics worldwide will nourish our bodies with food and our souls with the Holy Eucharist; such unity is an image of peace. During midday Christmas Eve in Turku, Finland, the mayor reads a Christmas peace declaration, which is broadcast countrywide. In light of the chaos in our world this year, what would your Christmas peace declaration say?

Generous God, teach me to treasure the gifts of community and peace you bestow upon us. Amen.

Take a moment to pause amid the busyness of your preparations, a peaceful moment, and pray for peace in our hearts, in our families and communities, and in our world. As our attention turns to the babe born in a manger in Bethlehem, invite your family to join the prayer service, Bringing Peace to the Holy Land.

Advent Reflection, Day 24

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
water bearers

Thousands of refugees from Kosovo wait for supplies at a camp. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Today’s Readings

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.
- George Iles, Christian actor

Advent is a time of waiting and patience, in our daily and faithful lives. Our journey could be compared to that of a refugee: traveling many weeks, then arriving at our destination, only to anxiously await the promise of what comes next. For refugees, the arrival is about survival into new life; for Christians, the arrival centers on Christ’s birth and the promise of a God who leads us to new life. As we come closer to December 25th, we remember the rich traditions that accompany our journeys and arrivals and that teach us about our expectations and hopes. Instead of hoping for presents, let us instead hope for presence – giving birth to Christ’s presence in our hearts and in our world. Let us pray for a world that will one day be transformed into a full reflection of the Kingdom of God.

Spirit of God, teach me the holy art of true generosity this Christmas season. Amen.

Act: If you still have last minute shopping, consider giving the gift of hope by purchasing a share of a CRS project through the CRS Gift Catalog. Consider adding the British celebration of Boxing Day to your family’s traditions. This centuries-old holiday originates from the opening of almsgiving boxes in the Church, where the contents are then distributed to neighborhood people such as mail carriers and homebound elderly. Celebrate your twelve days of Christmas with generous acts of hope-filled prayer.

Advent Reflection, Day 23

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
water bearers

African women and girls carry water back to their village in Malawi. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Today’s Readings

God’s nature is communal and social;
therefore our nature, created in God’s image, is communal and social as well.
- Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions: Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, USCCB

Advent is a time of personal reflection and also a time for unity. In Africa, a common saying states: It takes a village to raise a child. Women, especially, rely on other women in their daily work of home-keeping and raising children. As Americans, how can we create a greater sense of communion among ourselves? with our brothers and sisters around the world? with those living on the margins? Let us make that commitment to community. We can begin simply enough in our families by making a concentrated effort to work together to achieve the utmost potential for one another, individually and collectively as family unit.

Holy God, take my hands for Your will and my heart for Your people. Amen.

Act: Read the U.S. Bishops letter, “An Invitation for Young Adults to Change the World.” Choose one of the reflection questions at the end of the document for a prayer focus this week.

Advent Reflection, Day 22

Sunday, December 21st, 2008
olive tree

An olive tree grows in Jerusalem despite lack of water and overgrazed lands . Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Today’s Readings

Divinity is always where you least expect to find it.
- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, an American archbishop who became television’s first religious spokesman

Today begins our last week of Advent and our seasonal journey of deeper reflection on solidarity, hope and spiritual transformation. In four days, we joyously welcome the baby Jesus. We may look upon his birth, perhaps, as a symbol of peaceful reconciliation amongst nations, or a confirmation of humanity’s goodwill. This week, we are grateful for the universal depth of Jesus’ love for us. Let us share that love with our brothers and sisters.

Ever-loving God, grant me the peace to welcome your son, Jesus. Amen.

Act: Read the most recent issue of CRS’ newsletter The Wooden Bell focusing on the Global Food Crisis. How might you be a sign of humanity’s goodwill amidst this crisis?

Advent Reflection, Day 21

Saturday, December 20th, 2008
family flees

Migrants arriving home to Honduras after U.S. deportation. Photo by Hilda M. Perez for CRS

Today’s Readings

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
- Desmond Tutu, a South African Anglican Bishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who dedicates his life to issues of race and poverty

Each day, thousands of migrants around the world enter a new land. The issues surrounding migration are vast, yet an underlying reason for many remains the same: hope of better life. When the Holy Family fled into Egypt, they, too, shared the common struggles of migrants today. CRS supports the rights of people to remain in their country with safety and conditions that uphold human dignity. We also support the rights of those who have little choice but to flee homelands where that safety and dignity is violated. Today let us consider the plight of migrants throughout the world and remember that all of us have needs and possess human dignity.

Spirit of Compassion, bind us together. Amen.

Act: Having spent a week in prayer and solidarity with the migrant, find out how you can get involved with Justice for Immigrants, the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform.

Advent Reflection, Day 20

Friday, December 19th, 2008
family flees

Family fleeing the border into Chad. Photo by Kevin Hartigan/CRS

Today’s Readings

“We can assess what the life of the poor consists of, and that by placing ourselves on the side of the poor…we will know what the eternal truth of the Gospel consists of.”
- Oscar Romero, a Salvadorian bishop who was murdered (during mass) for his work as an advocate of the poor

Mary and Joseph were not unlike many of the world’s immigrants: simple, hard working, and poor. God purposefully chose them to lead his earthly Son through life. What responsibility and pride they must have felt for Jesus. Parents throughout the world share these strong feelings and hopes for their children. As the birth of Jesus approaches, let us ask ourselves how can we support the children in our lives, in our world. And as members of a global family, how do we give hope to a world in need?

God, help me to sustain conscious and expressive giving throughout the year. Amen.

Act: Review the USCCB documents and materials for National Migration Week, Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice, January 4-10. 2009. Plan now for your family or community to commemorate this week in a special way.

Advent Reflection, Day 19

Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Refugee camp

Displaced young residents in a refugee camp in Chad. Photo by Matthew Breman/CRS

Today’s Readings

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
- Mother Teresa

Poverty is one of the greatest hurdles, one experienced by billions around the world. As Catholics, we have an obligation rooted in faith to care for the poor, and to provide justice in our structural systems that disproportionately affect the poor. As Pope John Paul II said, “Pray for peace and work for justice”. Today, we reflect on the hope for a better tomorrow, one in which discrimination and poverty are no more.

God, grant me the courage to act on behalf of the those living on the margins: through my prayer, my faith and my action. Amen.

Act: Read about teenagers crossing the Mexican border and the CRS programming that offers assistance.