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open our hearts to the invitation and challenges
placed before us in the Gospel.
May our anticipation of the celebration of Christmas
encourage us in our work for justice in the world.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name.

Adapted from Advent Awakenings, Year C: Say Yes to God, published by RENEW International

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Micah
(Chapter 5:1-4a)
The prophet Micah lived some 700 years before Jesus at a time when Israel was overtaken by the Assyrians. Micah offers a hopeful promise for a messiah: “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.”
We Christians see this as a prophecy proclaiming the true Messiah, Jesus, and most important, his mission: “he shall be peace.”
Jesus brings peace for all who truly seek peace not just those who say it but don’t live it. How do you see yourself as living the peace of Jesus? Are you a peace maker?
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
How often do you turn to Jesus? Do you ever make the turn when you are not asking for anything but simply to be near Jesus?
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 10:5-10)
In the Jewish faith when this letter was written, a whole series of offerings and sacrifices were fulfilled at different times in the year. Attributing the words to Jesus, the author says, “‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in. They are offered according to the law.’ Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’ He takes away the first to establish the second.”
Jesus challenges the Old Law and replaces it with a new law, himself. He replaces the Old Law with its hundreds of impossible prescriptions with his Law of Love for God and one another. No wonder the religious leaders opposed him so dramatically. They felt, in effect, that he was putting them out of business, the business of ruling, of deciding who was in and who was out. For Jesus, everyone could be in who believed and lived accordingly, as it should be today.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 1:39-45)
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there are a series of unexpected, miraculous births. They all come through the power of God to exceptional women who were called by God to greatness through their children. For both Elizabeth and Mary, the births were full of joy, but the deaths of their sons were painful for the sons to experience and for the mothers to bear.
When we see the emaciated bodies of children dying in Yemen and Syria and on and on, imagine the extreme sorrow of their mothers and fathers. Mary and Elizabeth bore that sorrow but did it in faith, knowing that their sons were living and dying for the salvation of a whole people. So many mothers today who lose their children to starvation, violence, illness, or the disease of addiction are left only with memories, lifelong and very painful. Let us pray and act in solidarity with those mothers and fathers in their grief that they may believe in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus and of their children and all children.
And let us do our part to bring peace to our broken world, the peace that Jesus offers to us.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.
Image, “Mary’s Song,” by Sr. Therese Quinn, RSJ

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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 Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9–11
Fr. Joseph Healy, a Maryknoll missioner, tells this story in his book, Once Upon a Time in Africa.
It was the night before Christmas in Africa, and an eight-year-old-boy from Ghana was devastated because his village had been destroyed by the so-called army of liberation. He felt none of the usual joy and anticipation of the season. His parents had been killed, and many of his friends were kidnapped and never returned.
In years past, Christmas in his village had always been a joyous festival with music, houses decorated with paper ornaments created by the children, roads filled with people visiting friends and relatives, and plentiful food and drink. The little boy wondered how Christmas could come without his parents and his village. How could he celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace since he had not known any peace, only war and suffering?
As the boy continued to think about Christmases past and about the present suffering, he heard the horn of a car. It was a group of travelers who had taken a detour through his village, because the bridge over the river had been destroyed. They said it was Christmas Eve, and they were on their way to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. They shared their food with the villagers and helped build a fire in the marketplace to keep the people warm.
The young boy’s oldest sister was pregnant. She was still in shock and had not spoken since she and her brother escaped the soldiers. She went into labor, and villagers and visitors removed their shirts to make a bed for her next to the fire. She gave birth to a beautiful boy. War or no war, they danced and sang Christmas carols until dawn. When the young mother was asked what she would name the baby, she spoke for the first time since the village had been destroyed. She said, “His name is Gye Nyame,” which means “except God I fear none.” And they celebrated Christmas that night. Christmas had come, in the midst of their suffering and despair, with the birth of the boy’s nephew. This was their hope. Christmas always comes—despite all circumstances. Christ is among us and continues to come into our darkest moments to bring light and hope to our wounded hearts and broken world.
Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas season and a year filled with the hope of Christ!
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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God of all creation,
the barrenness of winter is upon the landscape.
Cold is in the air.
Help us to be aware of your Spirit at work
in all we experience
in these special weeks of Advent.
May we embrace the season as an opportunity
to grow in our knowledge of ourselves
and in our relationship with you.
We pray with gratitude for all your goodness.

From Advent Awakenings, Year C: Say Yes to God, published by RENEW International

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah
(Chapter 3:14-18A)
This prophecy warns the Jewish people of God’s judgment of the nation because of its sins but, like much of the prophetic literature, it ends with a promise of God’s blessings on those who survive: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!”
Now, that’s excitement! We Americans have had such moments—most recently VJ Day, the end of World War Two. People came out in the streets, bands played, and a whole country rejoiced at the end of that terrible war. The Jewish people, whose punishment would consist of the destruction of Jerusalem and exile in Babylon, would ultimately experience similar elation, but Zephaniah wants them to know that all this comes from the power of God. “The Lord has removed the judgement against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. … He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.” The prophet is well aware that there are political reasons why this could happen, but he wants the people to know that the mercy of God is the ultimate reason.
Today, something positive and important might happen to any one of us for what seem like obvious reasons but there is also the deeper dimension of our Father at work.
Responsorial Psalm
(Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6)
“Cry out with Joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” When was the last time that you cried out with joy and gladness because of the presence of God in your life? Try to bring back that feeling in your life. It may have been lost among so much other “stuff.”
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 4:4-7)
Here is the whole of this beautiful reading: “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: but, in everything, by prayer and petition rejoice! Your kindness shall 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.”
“Have no anxiety at all.” How can that work for us who live in an age of anxiety? Anxiety is a billion-dollar industry of multiple medications and therapies, many of which are extremely helpful in the healing process. But what about spiritual healing? More and more people seek spiritual healing through a variety of methods but all too often give up when they do not receive immediate relief from anxiety and the disorders associated with it. That is where prayer comes in—not a prayer here and there but an ongoing spirit of prayer to our all-loving Savior.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 3:10-18)
People were attracted to John the Baptist. They could hear and feel the power of his message, so they asked him. “ ‘What should we do?’ He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He answered them. ‘Stop collecting more than what has been prescribed.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is that that we should we do?’ He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.’ ”
John the Baptist was a challenging prophet and leader, calling on the powerful people of society to act with justice toward the poor and the oppressed. This did not sit well with the rulers of Israel and John died for his beliefs.
But in this passage, John says something amazing: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is the same baptism that we receive today, and it imparts to us the presence of the Holy Spirit. That means that you and I are never alone. We have our lifetime spiritual partner living within us, the very Spirit of God. Please remember that, especially in times of trouble, and yes, anxiety.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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