Luke, Chapter 1, verse 10-12:
10 Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, 11 the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
Zechariah was troubled, and he was afraid. I do not think this was Holy fear for Zechariah’s faith did not equal his fear and he was filled with unbelief. His intellect outweighed his heart and as a result he was left unable to speak until the birth of his son as the angel told him. That son was John the Baptist. There are times when we must listen to our hearts and not our heads.
Amoris Lætitia The Experiences and Challenges of Families-The Current Reality of the Family-(40-44)
In some countries, many young persons “postpone a wedding for economic reasons, work or study. Some do so for other reasons, such as the influence of ideologies which devalue marriage and family, the desire to avoid the failures of other couples, the fear of something they consider too important and sacred, the social opportunities and economic benefits associated with simply living together, a purely emotional and romantic conception of love, the fear of losing their freedom and independence, and the rejection of something conceived as purely institutional and bureaucratic.” We need to find the right language; arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage. Indeed, “a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity does not always allow a person to grow to maturity.” Marital problems are “often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. The development of bio-technology has also had a major impact on the birth rate.” Additionally, to this are added other factors, such as “industrialization, the sexual revolution, the fear of overpopulation and economic problems. Consumerism may also deter people from having children, simply so they can maintain a certain freedom and life-style.” The Church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization and even abortion.” The State has the responsibility to pass laws and create work to ensure the future of young people and help them realize their plan of forming a family.” It should be kept in mind that “the family has the right to decent housing, fitting for family life and commensurate to the number of the members, in a physical environment that provides the basic services for the life of the family and the community.” This makes us see how important it is to insist on the rights of the family and not only those of individuals.
Love compels us to “Be Not Afraid”
1. "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy.... For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2: 10-11). On this Holy Night, the liturgy invites us to celebrate with joy the great event of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. As we have just heard in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is born into a family poor by material standards, but rich in joy. He is born in a stable, for there is no place for him in the inn (cf. Lk 2: 7); he is placed in a manger, for there is no cradle for him; he comes into the world completely helpless, without anyone's knowledge, and yet he is welcomed and recognized first by the shepherds, who hear from the angel the news of his birth. The event conceals a mystery. It is revealed by the choirs of heavenly messengers who sing of Jesus' birth and proclaim glory "to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Lk 2: 14). Through the ages their praise becomes a prayer which rises from the hearts of the throngs who on Christmas Night continue to welcome the Son of God.
2. Mysterium: event and mystery. A man is born, who is the Eternal Son of the Almighty Father, the Creator of heaven and earth: in this extraordinary event the mystery of God is revealed. In the Word who becomes man the miracle of the Incarnate God is made manifest. The mystery sheds light on the event of the birth: a baby is adored by the shepherds in the lowly stable, at Bethlehem. He is "the Saviour of the world", "Christ the Lord" (cf. Lk 2: 11). Their eyes see a newborn child, wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger and in that "sign", thanks to the inner light of faith, they recognize the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets.
3. This is Emmanuel, God-with-us, who comes to fill the earth with grace. He comes into the world in order to transform creation. He becomes a man among men, so that in him and through him every human being can be profoundly renewed. By his birth he draws us all into the sphere of the divine, granting to those who in faith open themselves to receiving his gift the possibility of sharing in his own divine life. This is the meaning of the salvation which the shepherds hear proclaimed that night in Bethlehem: "To you is born a Saviour" (Lk 2: 11). The coming of Christ among us is the centre of history, which thereafter takes on a new dimension. In a way, it is God himself who writes history by entering into it. The event of the Incarnation thus broadens to embrace the whole of human history, from creation until the Second Coming. This is why in the liturgy all creation sings, voicing its own joy: the floods clap their hands, all the trees of the wood sing for joy, and the many coastlands are glad (cf. Ps 98: 8; 96: 12; 97: 1). Every creature on the face of the earth receives the proclamation. In the astonished silence of the universe, the words which the liturgy puts on the lips of the Church take on a cosmic resonance: Christus natus est nobis. Venite, adoremus!
4. Christ is born for us; come, let us adore him...God became man in order to give man a share in his own divinity. This is the good news of salvation; this is the message of Christmas! The Church proclaims it tonight, by means of my words too, for the peoples and nations of the whole earth to hear: Christus natus est nobis Christ is born for us. Venite, adoremus! Come, let us adore him!
Read: The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him . . . including the fact that he was born to die for us.
Reflect: Take time to reflect on today's readings by practicing the ancient art of Lectio Divina.
Pray: Offer up these words to the Heavenly Father for a renewed spirit of evangelization, so you might live as a missionary disciple this liturgical year.
Act: Take some extra time with this passage today and remember the true spirit of Christmas. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Lk 1:31-33)
Christmas Eve Customs
The Christmas Tree
Much confusion surrounds what is arguably the season's most famous symbol. Christmas trees start appearing in shops, homes, and even some churches soon after Thanksgiving. Traditionally, however, the Christmas tree was not put up until Christmas Eve and was not taken down until the Vigil of the Epiphany. (Thus, it was only around for the.) The reason for this will be explained in the section on ; for now it suffices to point out that the Christmas tree is not meant to be a part of the Advent landscape. However, because finding a tree on December 24 can be difficult, one practical measure is to buy the tree early and leave it in the home undecorated until the 24th. An undecorated evergreen brought indoors is not a Christmas tree but a "Yule" tree, a harmless, pre-Christian reminder of life to help dispel the gloom of winter. When the tree is decorated, it will then be transformed from a natural token to a Christian statement rich with supernatural symbols for the season.
Making Room for Sacred Leisure
According to an ancient (and practical) tradition, by Christmas Eve the house is to be thoroughly cleaned, all tasks finished or removed from sight, all borrowed items returned, and no task allowed to be begun that cannot be finished by nightfall.
Christmas Eve Dinner and Celebration
Most people associate Christmas feasting with the dinner on Christmas Day, and rightfully so, for as a Vigil Christmas Eve was traditionally a day of abstinence and fasting. Yet there were also delicious Christmas Eve dinners that conformed to this restraint (see Foods). Afterwards, the family would gather around the newly decorated Christmas tree, reciting Vespers or praying and singing hymns to the infant Jesus now in the crib (the figurine had been conspicuously absent during Advent). In some countries, it was at this time that gifts were exchanged.
The Christmas Candle
One of the most symbolically rich customs of Christmas Eve was the Christmas candle, a large white candle representing Christ. In Ireland, a Christmas candle was bedecked with holly and lit. It would burn through the night and be relit on each of the twelve nights of Christmas. The entire family would pray before the candle for their living and departed loved ones. In England and Ireland, the Christmas candle often consisted of three individual candles molded together in honor of the Trinity, while in Germany a highly decorated pyramid of smaller candles called a Weihnachtspyramide was used.
Lights in the Window
Another Irish custom during Christmastide was putting lights in the window. This practice originated during the times of persecution, when Mass had to be held in secret. Faithful Irish believers would place a candle in the window on Christmas Eve as a sign to any priest who happened by that this home was a safe haven in which Mass could be offered. When interrogated by the British about the meaning of this practice, the Irish replied that the lights were an invitation for Joseph and Mary to stay the night. Unthreatened by this supposed superstition, the British left them alone.
Midnight Mass-Vigil of the Nativity or Christmas Eve
CHRISTIAN, for the love of Christ, and for thine own salvation, occupy thy mind, during this holy night, with holy thoughts and aspirations, in order to make thyself worthy of all the graces which Christ will grant thee on His coming. Consider how St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in obedience to the edict of Cesar, and in perfect submission to the will of God, went to Bethlehem, and, finding no room there, at last entered an open stable, where they were content to stay. Does not the Son of God deserve all our love when He thus humbled Himself for us?
Christmas Eve was my father’s time to celebrate and open the presents and later we would go to midnight mass. Mom and Dad always put the presents under the tree as they got them; wrapped of course and I think this was done to create a sense of anticipation for Christmas. It was remarkable we didn’t break the gifts from all the shaking we gave them to try to figure out what the gift was. Mom and Dad never had much money, but Mom would start going to the garage sales in October and get tons of stuff on the cheap. We never knew what Mom would find but she never gave us anything that would take away from our dignity or disappoint us with an awful Christmas sweater. After all Christmas is celebrating the greatness of a God that took it upon Himself to raise the dignity of man.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch has power to charm,
So hallow'd and gracious is the time. --Hamlet I.i
Since ancient times, popular folklore has attached a wondrous goodness to the night before Christmas. Like Shakespeare's Hamlet, many Catholics believed that there was not only a special charm about this night, but a holiness. Nature awoke with unbounded joy in the middle of the night to greet its Maker: bees hummed sweet symphonic hymns, cattle fell on their knees in adoration, and trees and plants bowed in the direction of Bethlehem. No wicked spirits roamed the earth on this night, no evil forces prevailed, for on this night God had blessed the earth with His Son. Consequently, one hour before midnight, some churches in the British Isles would toll their bells mournfully as if for a Requiem and then peal joyfully at the stroke of twelve. The funereal ringing was called the "Devil's funeral" to indicate Satan's demise at the birth of Christ.
A special devotion that can be performed during Advent to prepare for the coming of the Infant Savior. It can be adapted for adults and/or children and applied as is appropriate to your state in life.
· 14th day, December 24th: THE SWADDLING CLOTHES—Inward Recollection All your thoughts today, all your wishes, your aspirations, your love and your joy, must be for the dear Infant Jesus, who in a few hours condescends to be born in your heart.
49 Godly Character Traits
During this Christmas season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:
Joyfulness vs. Self-pity
The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11)
1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life - pure worthy, and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.
2579 David is par excellence the king "after God's own heart," the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people. His prayer, the prayer of God's Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expresses a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord. In the Psalms David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayer. The prayer of Christ, the true Messiah and Son of David, will reveal and fulfill the meaning of this prayer.
The Way Mortification
"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."
How often you resolve to serve God in something, and you have to content yourself — you are so weak — with offering him the frustrated feeling of having failed to keep such a simple resolution
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.