Provisions for the Journey to Bethlehem
Brief reflections on the
week’s Scripture readings,
preparing us to meet the
For the Third Week of Advent
“Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again:
rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety
at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your
requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7)
much I can add to Paul’s joyous, encouraging, and poetic words. Today is Gaudete
Sunday, a day to rejoice in the knowledge of the coming of our Savior. Joy is
different than happiness. Happiness is fleeting, but in the emotional bank
account of our lives, instances of joy have no principal risk. In today’s psalm,
the author says, “God is indeed my savior. I am confident and unafraid.” Time
does not diminish joy, and we can go back to our experiences of joy again and
again confident and unafraid that they cannot be taken from us. Such should be
our joy at the gift of the Incarnation, that peace God has given us that
surpasses all understanding and fulfills our greatest desires!
Provision—“Be Joyfully Confident in Holiness:”
Now, that’s a mouthful! What do I
mean by that? By now, I hope you understand that holiness is not some pious,
unattainable state, but an attitude, a way of being in the real world, modeling
ourselves after Jesus as he was in the world, even when things get a little
messy. Let us be assured of God’s saving grace! Let us go forward unafraid,
confident in our own holy intentions, even when our actions fall short. Let the
joy of this holy season guard your hearts and minds in Jesus!
Monday, December 17:
The genealogy of Jesus
Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham……
you ever need a reason to lie down with a cold compress on your head, spend some
time tracking the first half of this genealogy through the Old Testament. The
spelling of names varies from book to book, and the stories don’t sync
chronologically. Thankfully, there are websites that explain this. Did you know
that, contrary to Matthew’s genealogy, Jesus’ actual bloodline from David is
from his mother? On Joseph’s side, his claim to kingship is a title inheritance
what’s really interesting is reading all the stories of the crimes and misdeeds
of many of Jesus’ early ancestors. Jacob was a liar and a thief (abetted by his
mother); Tamar posed as a prostitute to trick Judah, her father-in-law, into
impregnating her; David was an adulterer and murderer; Solomon succumbed to
seduction and idol worship; Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed their sons. There were
clearly more kings that “did evil in the sight of the Lord” than “pleased the
Lord.” It just goes to show that no family is without some skeletons in the
Amusing yes, but it’s
important we not miss the most important point. Soon we will celebrate the
Incarnation: God becoming one of us, taking on our human condition, facing the
struggles we face in life. Jesus knew illness, arguments, death, and sorrow. He
is “our high priest, able to sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Heb 4:15).
Today’s Provision—Holiness in Real
No one’s life is perfect. We all
have our stories, some more painful than others, but most of us carry at least
some baggage. If we try to ignore it, it will just get heavier over time. If
there are burdens you carry, talk to Jesus about them. Ask him to help you
accept what is and lighten your load. “…he
came to share your plight, your fight, your night, and point you toward
Tuesday, December 18:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be
afraid to take Mary your wife into your home…When Joseph awoke, he did as the
angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
Have you ever
had a powerful dream, one through which you believe you received a message or
guidance? I have, and it can be a very disconcerting experience. I remember
having to spend time discerning what I was supposed to do with the message I had
received. Joseph has had a powerful dream experience. So powerful in fact that
he seemingly needed no time to discern. He wakes up and takes Mary right into
his home, no questions asked. Scripture says “he did as the angel commanded,”
but what it really should say is that Joseph awoke and chose to listen to his
heart, to put aside his fears and doubts and humbly trust in God’s will.
Provision— Humble Holiness:
True humility is one of the
hallmarks of holiness. Humbleness is not about lowering oneself; it is about
raising up the other. There is a difference. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere
Christianity, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is
thinking of yourself less.” Both Mary and Joseph were willing to put aside
all they thought they knew about the world and how things work. And they were
willing to listen. See today if you can hear God’s voice by listening closely
and putting aside your own assumptions and expectations. Say a special prayer to
St. Joseph for the holiness and humility to do great things for God!
Wednesday, December 19:
“…this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin
the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
(Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a))
This is the
story of Samson’s conception and birth. Note that the angel says he will
begin the deliverance of Israel. No word that he will be the one to finish
the job--we know that person comes onto the scene about a thousand years later!
God does that a lot—gets the ball rolling--even with his own Incarnation. Yes,
Jesus is the one to “save his people from their sins,” and yet he relies on
future generations to keep his message alive and fresh and new to address the
needs of the world as it evolves. Each one of us is consecrated and has a role
to play in the saving work of God!
provision—Holy Labor in the Kingdom.
“It helps, now and
then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our
efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny
fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is
complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. …We
cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This
enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it
is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to
enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master
builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
(from The Prayer of St. Oscar Romero, written by Bishop Ken Untener)
Thursday, December 20:
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
“imposter syndrome” has been in the news recently. Former US First Lady Michelle
Obama says she suffers from doubt about her accomplishments and that she will
slip up and be exposed as a fraud. I’ve had that sort of feeling too, especially
when I was first starting out as a writer and spiritual director: “Who am I to
guide people in spiritual growth?” I wonder if Mary had those kind of doubts
too—“Why me? I am no princess or queen to give birth to the Messiah. I’m nothing
special.” Of course, we know Mary was something very special, but she
also had the faith God would use her giftedness for the good of the world; hence
her words, “Do unto me.” God has given each of us gifts too, but we might
dismiss ourselves: “Who am I to spread the word of God, to tend to needy when I
am so needy myself?” We pray for Mary’s depth of faith that God knows our gifts
even better than we do and, if we allow him, he will use them for the good of
the world. Don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God.
Provision—Accepting Grace in Holiness
(Round 4): When you think about it, dismissing ourselves and our gifts is
really denying God the wonderful work he has done in each of us. Accepting the
grace of our giftedness in the true humility is really a song of praise and
thanksgiving to God as the source of all our gifts and virtues. Let’s model
ourselves after Mary and not refuse the great work God has planned to accomplish
Friday, December 21:
“Blessed are you who
believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
are you when you believe that what the Lord has promised will be
fulfilled. Blessed are you when you can look beyond the difficulties you face
and the violence and anger that surrounds us and find joy and hope and peace in
God’s word. Blessed are you when you take that joy and hope and peace and share
it with everyone you encounter. Blessed are you, holy are you.
Provision—Sharing the Holy:
Mary was willing to share the Holy
with the world by bearing Christ. We are also called to bear Christ. Look for
opportunities today to share the Holy within you with others.
Saturday, December 22:"
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give
him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”
(Hannah) left Samuel there.
to imagine what Hannah does here, but the lesson of this reading is the lesson
of our lives—letting go and giving back to the Lord what the Lord has given.
Letting go…of our children, our need for control, past hurts and sinfulness, and
in the end, our very lives…letting go is hard. In Ignatian Spirituality, this
letting go is called “holy indifference.” It isn’t about not caring or the
attitude of “whatever.” On the contrary, it’s a freedom we grant ourselves and
those we love. By growing in indifference and letting go, we can love more
honestly, care without being needy, give without the expectation of receiving.
It’s the recognition all we have and all we are are gifts from God, and the only
thing that really matters is God’s love and grace—these alone are enough.
“The very essence of motherly love
is to care for the child’s growth…Here lies the basic difference to erotic love.
In erotic love, two people who were separate become one. In motherly love, two
people who were one become separate…It is at this stage that motherly love
becomes a difficult task, that it requires unselfishness, the ability to give
everything and to want nothing but the happiness of her child.”
(Erich Fromm) Joy and peace can elude us precisely because of our inability to
let go. Start small and release yourself (and the other if it involves another)
from that irksome little slight or mistake that keeps popping up. Ask God to
accept it, knowing it’s going to take some time to let go completely. Each time
it comes to mind, say “This belongs to you, God.” The more you do this, the
easier it becomes.
Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to
maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life.
She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral
Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental
psychology and spiritual guidance. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is
a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral
parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday
life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children,
David and Maggie.
We hope you
enjoy "Come and See!"
and we welcome your input. Please contact Elaine Ireland at
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© 2009 - 2018, Elaine H. Ireland -