National church leaders gathering in Johannesburg from 21-22 October 2015 at Southern Sun Hotel OR Tambo International Airport, for the Annual National Church Leaders’ Consultation (NCLC), issued the following special...
Expectant in Love
Sunday 21 December
Scripture: Luke 1: 26 – 38
This is undoubtly the most extraordinary moment in history! The Incarnation: The Word made Flesh! God came among us! The prophecies and promises were fulfilled! How incredible! Awesome!!
It is difficult for us to imagine what Mary must have experienced in this most extraordinary moment. She asks a very practical question “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” The angel’s response was to change the course of history, and to change life for mankind forever: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.”
This is mind-blowing stuff and almost impossible to comprehend! It could only have been faith that made it possible for Mary to accept this incredible revelation. Only faith makes it possible for us to be able to accept and understand the extraordinary ways of God.
After generations of waiting, the prophecy had come true “A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us.” (Is. 7:14)
The conception of a child is almost always associated with love. Here however, it was more than love between a man and a woman. It is God’s love (for his people) by which Jesus is conceived. Love is surely the greatest power of all. Here we see God’s love at work in this most normal, simple and yet extraordinary way in which he chose to enter into human history and to come among his people. Mary was to carry him with the love of a mother for the child in her womb. Only a mother can know this love and the extraordinary bond that exists between a mother and her unborn child. This child was to be fully human (Mary’s child) and yet fully divine (God’s child).
In His love for sinful mankind, God enters into our world in the manner of love. This is the message Jesus was to proclaim “Love one another as I have loved you” St John writes; “God is Love. He who lives in Love lives in God and God lives in him.”
This is the greatest story ever told; a story which begins in love at Jesus’ conception, is filled with love at his birth, culminates in love with his death on the cross and leads us in love to the gift of eternal life.
In the great tradition of the Church the event of God coming into the world (the Incarnation) is observed at the beginning of every day (6.00am), the middle of the day (12.00pm) and the end of the day (6.00pm). The pray is known as the Angelus: During this last week of Advent try to pray the Angelus at these hours every day (or at least once during the day).
If you are not familiar with the Angelus here it is:
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
The Word was made Flesh.
And dwelt among us.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Father, as the glory and wonder of your love is revealed in the birth of your Son Jesus, help me to be open to this Love during these last days of Advent and may it be reflected in my words, deeds and actions. Amen.
Today we begin the last week of Advent. The Lord’s coming is very near. Try to receive the Blessed Eucharist as often as possible this week. Mass tomorrow is at 9.00am. Make a very special effort to attend.
Monday 22 December
Scripture Luke 1: 46 – 56
As much as the Angelus given in yesterday’s reflection is prayed three times every day, so too are the words of today’s Gospel, known as the Magnificat. This Canticle of Mary is including in the Divine Office for Evening Prayer every day. How wonderful to be able to echo Mary’s hymn of praise.
The Almighty had indeed done great things for her. In the imitation of another great woman of faith, Hannah the mother of Samuel, she gives praise and thanks to God. (Read 1 Samuel 2: 1 – 10)
The ways of God are so very different to our ways. God chooses a lowly handmaid to be the Mother of the Saviour. He is a merciful God and this mercy reaches to all people for all time. Those whom the world regards as great, powerful and mighty are as nothing in God’s eyes. He raises the lowly, the downtrodden, the rejected. Pregnant with Jesus, Mary proclaims what her son’s mission, ministry and life is going to be.
In these last days before Christmas we need to take heed. Our earthly importance, power, pride, possessions and wealth mean nothing to God. The heart that genuinely seeks God is filled with humility, sincerity, goodness and Love.
We can imitate Mary’s love by welcoming her Son Jesus, singing God’s praises and by a willingness to allow God to bring Jesus into our world by using us, as he used Mary. Let it be done to us as you have said!
Will you allow God to use you to bring Jesus into our world? Speak of Jesus today and share with someone how much you long for his coming in your life. If you use social media, post this.
Use me Lord. Make me willing, like Mary, to bring Jesus into my home, my life and my world so that others may come to know him through me. Amen
Tuesday 23 December
Scripture: Malachi 3: 1 – 4; 23 – 24
“And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter His temple”
All of us in relationship with the Lord are awaiting His coming again.
Advent recalls much of the expectation that awaited the arrival of “the Promised One”, the Messiah. Then Jesus came into the world, and those “with eyes to see” and “ears to hear” recognised Him as being that “Promised One”. However, the religious leaders of His day and the Pharisees, were in the main, spiritually blind and refused to see in Jesus the fulfilment of all the Messianic prophecies. So they rejected Him, and plotted His death.
The Apostles firmly believed when they witnessed the Ascension of Jesus, that He would return in their lifetime and “make all things new”. However, as time passed, it became clear that Jesus was not coming back quite so soon, and that His disciples needed to work seriously hard at building His Kingdom here in the world – to further His mission of “preaching the good news”.
Much has been said by many about “the end times”, and on more than one occasion we have had some or other prophet of doom declaring that “the end is nigh”, and we should get ready for it!
We know that Jesus will come again – He said so. Do we await that coming with anxiety, fear and trepidation, or do we look forward to it?
The answer to this question is generally bound up with our feelings about our own stewardship in the Kingdom – with what we have done, each of us, to further the growth of that Kingdom? Each day provides us with opportunities to show our love for Him through love of our neighbour. Each day should be lived as if He were coming tomorrow, and then we will have to account for our labours on His behalf.
Time is always short, and as it says in Matthew 25: 4, “The bridegroom was late”. Jesus has delayed His return to give us every opportunity to produce “fruit”. Let us not waste that time but put it to good use so that when He does return we will be able to rejoice when He says to each of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant… come and share in your Master’s happiness”!
Decide what you can do in these next few days to share “the good news” with others. Let that sharing find its voice in actions rather than words.
“Come Lord Jesus, the light is dying”; Lord, I await Your coming again with hope and longing. Help me, as I wait, to spend my time reaching out to others in Your name. Amen.
Wednesday 24 December
Scripture Luke 1 : 67 – 79
We are on the eve of the greatest event in history: the birth of our Saviour, our Redeemer. Does the proclamation of today’s gospel fill you with joy and hope? When the Lord comes to redeem us he fills us with his Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and hope in the promises of God.
The Holy Spirit gave Zechariah a vision for his own son, John, as a prophet and forerunner who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Every devout Jew longed for the day when the Messiah would come. Now Zechariah knows beyond doubt that the day is very near. Like Zechariah, the Holy Spirit wants to give us vision, joyand confidence in the knowledge of God’s merciful love, protection, and care which he offers us through his Son Jesus Christ. Like the Baptist we too are called to prepare the way that leads to Christ. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may inspire us with joy, hope, and boldness to proclaim the message of the Lord’s visitation and redemption.
Do something today, that will show your family and all whom you meet that you truly believe in Jesus who is coming into our world bringing Joy, Hope, Peace and Love.
Lord Jesus, you have been gracious and merciful towards your people. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may bear witness to the Joyof the Gospel to those around me. Amen
Thursday 25 December
FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD
Scripture: Luke 2 : 15 – 20
At last the day that we have been preparing for has arrived.
Imagine this scene. There is a small house and inside the house a historian is seated, quill poised, ready to pen the memoires of an elderly lady.
She tells him how an angel had appeared to her when she was a young girl and had told her she was to be the mother of God’s Son. She recounts her arduous journey to visit her cousin in the hill country of Judah and how, on her return, she and her husband had to travel to Bethlehem.
He listens intently as she tells him how exhausted she and her husband were after many days of travelling and how anxious she became on their arrival in Bethlehem as they went from place to place, seeking shelter for the night. She clasps the thin shawl which is draped loosely around her shoulders and continues. Her voice is soft and gentle and she gazes away into the distance as if she is reliving every moment of her story.
She goes on to relate how a kind couple offered them shelter in their stable. She recalls how she was already in labour and knew her baby would be born soon. The stable was warm and the lowing of the animals brought her great comfort. It was still outside and the night sky was filled with stars. Although she had known all along that her baby was going to be a very special little person, she was now more convinced than ever that God was watching over her and her husband and a wonderful sense of peace and serenity came over them.
There’s a twinkle in her eye as she smiles at the man seated opposite her. After her baby was born, some shepherds who had been watching over their flocks on the nearby hills came to the stable. She explains how angels had appeared to them and had told them to go in search of the baby and how, after finding the newborn baby in the stable, they had gone back to the hills, glorifying and praising God.
Luke is in awe of this humble woman. Out of love and obedience to God she brought the Saviour into the world. Once again he bends over his writing tablet and continues to record her words. Did he have any idea that this story would be told and retold throughout the world for centuries to come?
You are back in the present. Today is Christmas Day, the celebration of that great and wonderful event. But it is more than that. Today Jesus gives himself to us again. He is born in the hearts and lives of each of us, making his presence felt and known in the world – no longer through the Virgin Mary, but through each of us his followers, men and women of faith.
God’s love is all around us. Whatever may happen, God is truly among us. Surrond yourself with his presence. He loves you!
Christmas isn’t just about what happened over 2000 years ago and its effect doesn’t last for just one day. As Mary brought the baby Jesus into the world and gave the world its redeemer, so we are called to take Jesus into our world; into our homes, our offices, our schools.
We are called to be the eyes of Jesus, to look with compassion on those less fortunate than ourselves; to be the ears of Jesus, to hear the calls for help and assistance from those weaker than ourselves; to be the mouth of Jesus, to speak words of love, comfort and peace to those who are troubled and downcast; to be the hands of Jesus, to reach out and touch the lonely who are aching for physical contact, to be the feet of Jesus, to go in service wherever he asks us to go; to be the heart of Jesus, to show kindness and gentleness and to be generous and patient to everyone whom we meet as we go about our daily lives. Be Jesus and bring Jesus to all whom you encounter today – and every day!
Lord Jesus, You have come into the world and You have been born anew in my life. Soften my heart and give me the strength to take your love, joy and peace into every sphere of my world. Help me to do little things with great love. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Advent 2014 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Irene Helsdon, Deacon Peter Venter, Veronica Donnelly and Deacon Henry Blair. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. May this Advent be for you a time of eager Expectation and Joy.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Durban North. Advent 2014