We turn our attention indoors with Advent prayers and preparations for the birth of Christ; for most of us, the indoors makes up the part of our environment in which we spend the most time. It is also the most unregulated and can be the most polluted part of the total environment –due to new home cleaning products and tighter ventilation. Consider a simpler home environment, where houseplants purify the air, where fresh air is plentiful, and where chemical products are limited and controlled. The yearly cycle of twelve months can make us more aware of our human environment and should help us as individuals and as a community to conduct a monthly examination of conscience.
Overview of December
The liturgy of Advent focuses on remembering Christ's first coming at Bethlehem which then directs our mind to Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. The readings focus on the people of the Old Testament awaiting the Messiah, John the Baptist, heralding the way for Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and her maternal preparations.
The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of December are:
3. Francis Xavier, Memorial
4. SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Sunday
6. Nicholas, Opt. Mem.
7. Ambrose, Memorial
8. IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY, Solemnity
9. Juan Diego (USA), Opt. Mem.
11. THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, GUADETE SUNDAY, Sunday
12. Our Lady of Guadalupe (USA), Feast
13. Lucy, Memorial
14. John of the Cross, Ember Wednesday, Memorial
18. FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Sunday
21. Peter Canisius; O Dayspring, Opt. Mem.
23. John of Kanty; O Emmanuel, Opt. Mem.
25. NATIVITY OF THE LORD (Christmas), Solemnity
26. Stephen, Feast
27. John, Apostle, Feast
28. Holy Innocents, Feast
29. 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas; Thomas Becket , Opt. Mem.
30. Feast of the Holy Family, Feast
31. 7th Day in the Octave of Christmas; Sylvester I, Opt. Mem.
Christmastide begins with the First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of Christmas on December 24th and ends on the Sunday after Epiphany. Christmas and Easter are the only solemnities with octaves attached in the revised calendar. The Christmas octave differs from Easter in that it includes some major feasts: St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), the Holy Innocents (December 28) and St. Sylvester I (December 31). The octave closes on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
The Reason for the Season
The month of December is filled with expectation and celebration. Preparation is the key word for the first 24 days of December. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas — shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning. Too often, however, we are so busy with the material preparations that we lose sight of the real reason for our activity.
Christmas is a Christian feast — and we must reclaim it as such! In the same way that a family eagerly prepares for a baby, so in Advent should we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We should keep Advent as a season of waiting and longing, of conversion and of hope and keep our thoughts on the incredible love and humility of our God in taking on the flesh of the Virgin Mary. Let us not forget to prepare a peaceful place in our hearts wherein our Savior may come to dwell.
The best person we can turn to for help during Advent is
Mary, Christ's and our Mother. She awaited the day of His birth with more
eagerness than any other human being. Her preparation was complete in every
respect. Let's crown our preparation and borrow something of Mary's
prayerfulness, her purity and whole-hearted submission to God's will.
December Travel and Events
Kick off the month with a tour of the National Christmas Tree. Located on the White House’s South Lawn, a towering 40-foot evergreen spruce has been a seasonal fixture of the nation’s capital since 1923.
San Antonio River Walk
Keep the Christmas spirit going in San Antonio. Every December, more than a mile of the San Antonio River Walk comes alive with over 100 underwater lights, as well as LED rope lighting crossing from one side of the river to the other.
Besides being a great time to visit (December is the start
of New Zealand’s summer season), the country has a Hobbit
movie set tour on upper North Island.
Ice Fishing, Colorado Style
This December, put Colorado on your outdoors adventure map: Colorado's robust winters lure ice-fishing enthusiasts to gear up and head out for the thrill of the catch. Prime spots include Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a 1,550- acre reservoir, about 100 miles west of Denver.
Caribbean Cruise: Early December
For an impromptu December getaway, set sail for the Caribbean. The first two weeks of December are your best bet for bargain prices on cruises and hotels, before fares rise come Christmas and New Year’s. Combine your warm winter escape with cool events, like the Bahamas International Film Festival.
Metro Phoenix: Apache
Trail Tour with Canyon Lake Cruise
This full-day Apache Trail Tour gets to the heart of the Sonoran Desert with a combined cruise and drive. Glide across Canyon Lake, visit a ghost town and rest at an old wagon stop before the day is out.
December 8-27 San Francisco Ballet's "The Nutcracker"
The holiday season wouldn’t be quite the same without catching a performance of "The Nutcracker." We suggest heading to the city by the Bay to see the sparkling two-act ballet performed by the San Francisco Ballet, which first introduced Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece to American audiences in 1944.
Ballet Arizona takes the Symphony Hall stage in grand fashion with this holiday classic. Celebrate the joy and wonder of the season with Ib Andersen’s The Nutcracker as Tchaikovsky’s cherished score is masterfully performed by The Phoenix Symphony. Follow Clara’s wintry adventures as she battles mischievous mice and charms the Sugar Plum Fairy. Whether this is your first Nutcracker or your 101st, this heartwarming tradition never fails to enchant and draw smiles from all!
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating
For the quintessential N.Y.C. Christmas experience, take a whirl on the ice at Rockefeller Center. The world-famous ice-skating rink at the famed commercial complex, in the heart of Manhattan, has been a fixture of Rockefeller Center since 1936.
December 21 Stonehenge Winter Solstice
Take in the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Every year, more than 5,000 people gather at the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, to mark the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. Be sure to explore the new visitor center close to the ancient site, too.
Sedona, Arizona. Friday, December 23, 7:00 pm
The 10th Annual Old Town Center for the Arts Winter Solstice Concert will feature some of the world’s favorite Christmas melodies, uplifting songs of the spirit, original songs, and a special visual, musical tribute to honor our indigenous ancestors, in observation of the ancient winter solstice ritual.
Santa Claus House in North Pole
Just where does Santa Claus live? North Pole, Alaska, of course. Head to this small, wintery city in the heart of Alaska to see Santa Claus House. A storefront, built in the early 1950s, it’s the spot from which the Original Letter From Santa is mailed out, proclaiming the bearer to be “on Santa’s Good List.”
Flagstaff, Arizona. North Pole Experience. Your journey begins by boarding one of Santa's Magic Trolleys at the breathtaking Little America Hotel. Your Trolley Elf will whisk your family away and transport you through the Magic Portal to the enchanted North Pole destination, Santa's Grand Workshop. Once you knock on Santa's Grand Workshop doors, you'll experience a holiday family adventure unlike any other. First stop is Santa's famous Toy Hall of Fame. Next, it's all hands on deck as you help Santa's Elves build toys for children around the world!
Hit the Slopes
Hit the slopes this month at North America’s most popular ski resort. In addition to being home to more groomed terrain than any other resort in the world, Vail, Colorado, boasts the country’s largest ski school for all skill levels. For the more seasoned skier, head to Jackson Hole, where over 90 percent of the trails fall into intermediate to expert categories.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Come December, the City of Brotherly Love transforms itself into a Christmas Village. This annual holiday market in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park features traditional German Christmas market items, displayed by more than 60 vendors in decorated booths and tents. Get your fill of holiday goodies like gingerbread cookies and mulled wine.
· December 1st Thursday Feast
o Rededication to St. Joseph (11/8-12/10)
· December 4th Second Sunday of Advent
o Full Cold Moon
· December 8th Feast of the Immaculate Conception
· December 9th St. Juan Diego
· December 10th Our Lady of Loreto
· December 11th Third Sunday of Advent
· December 12th Our Lady of Guadalupe
· December 13th Santa Lucia
· December 14th Ember Wednesday
· December 16th Ember Friday
· December 17th Ember Saturday
· December 18th Fourth Sunday of Advent (Hanukkah)
· December 21st Feast of the St. Thomas, Apostle Winter Solstice
· December 24th Christmas Eve
· December 25th Christmas Sunday
· December 26th Feast of St. Stephan
· December 27th Feast of St. John, the Apostle
· December 28th The Holy Innocents
· December 29th St. Thomas Becket
· December 30th The Holy Family
· December 31st St. Sylvester
DECEMBER 1 Thursday
John, Chapter 11, Verse 36
So the Jews said, “See how he LOVED him.”
Jesus’ love is this that death is no more; the last enemy has been defeated. The Jews were the witness of this in their exclamation at the raising of Lazarus, “See how he loved him.” One, who has faith, even after death, shall live; one who has faith and is alive will never really die. Of this the restoration of Lazarus is the sign. After the resurrection of Lazarus those in power plotted to kill Jesus because he destroyed the fear of death which was a major tool used by Satan their father to control mankind.
One day, when the angels of God came to present themselves before the LORD, Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "Whence do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming the earth and patrolling it." And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?"
God does not require anyone to pass an exam to merit birth. Life is a gift from our creator via our parents. A child is not a trophy but a gift. Families are a communion of persons essential to understanding love. At the same time, the family home can often be the scene of pain as well. We experience death through the self-taking of the world through greed, manipulation, indulgence, and infatuation, which masquerade as love. Wounded, we begin to shy away from the gift, to be coerced into choosing to fear rather than love. Attacks on marriage and the family, such as same-sex unions, no fault-divorce, free love, cohabitation, pornography, and adultery are attacks on love itself and the very identity of the human person. Healing means returning to the original form of love we were meant to learn as children. The gift of self makes love visible. As long as conflicts/anger is buried, they do not heal. Yet our hearts long for love which is our first memory. Love is the authentic surrender of self for the good of the other. A fundamental truth of Christ and the Catholic Church is this “Culture of Life” which stems from love.
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day serves to remember those who have died from AIDS and to bring about awareness of HIV/AIDS through education and publicly held events. HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system and makes it progressively more difficult to fight infections and diseases. Once HIV advances and becomes so severe that the body's immune system is too weak to fight off many infections and diseases, it is called AIDS. There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS and if left untreated by antiretroviral medication, patients' immune systems fail leading to death. World AIDS Day is also an opportunity for people to show their support for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is one of the eight WHO Global Health Days. The day was created by the World Health Organization in 1988. Since its inception over two decades ago, the world has managed to halt and reverse the spread of HIV. According to the WHO, the occurrence of new cases has decreased 35% between 2000 and 2015, while AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 24% over the same time frame, all thanks to antiretroviral treatments and widespread AIDS education and awareness. World AIDS Day is observed on December 1st of each year.
World AIDS Day Facts
· The Red Ribbon is the universal symbol of support for those living with HIV/AIDS.
· The AIDS Memorial Quilt Project allows friends and family members of someone who has died from AIDS to construct a quilt panel and have it placed in the quilt. The quilt travels and is displayed throughout the US.
· The first case of what is now known as AIDS was reported in the US in June 1981.
· According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 are unaware of their infection.
· According to World Health Organization, AIDS has claimed over 39 million lives globally.
World AIDS Day Top Events and Things to Do
· Wear a Red Ribbon, an international symbol of AIDS support.
· Learn the facts of how HIV is transmitted so you can be better prepared. Remember, HIV is spread through body fluids such as blood, semen, rectal and vaginal fluids and breast milk.
· Get involved in a fundraising effort to support research into HIV/AIDS treatment. Many fundraisers are done in the form of HIV/AIDS day walks.
· Watch a movie or documentary about HIV/AIDS. Some popular suggestions: Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Philadelphia Story (1993), Longtime Companion (1990), The Age of AIDS (2006) and AIDS, Inc (2007).
· Get tested if unsure of your infection status. Local pharmacies sell HIV home test kits, or you can find free testing sites in most areas.
The Jesse Tree dates back to the Middle Ages and came from Europe. Even some ancient cathedrals have Jesse Tree designs in their stained-glass windows. The "tree" is usually a branch or sapling and is decorated with various symbols that remind us of the purpose and promises of God from Creation to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Jesse was the father of King David and God promised David that his Kingdom would last forever. Two centuries after the death of King David, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-2) Each Jesse Tree ornament usually consists of a handmade symbol or drawing that represents one of the major stories of the Old Testament along with a brief verse of Scripture from that story.
Jesse Tree Ornaments
If you decide to use one symbol each day during December, there are 24 symbolic ornaments to make for your Jesse Tree, so each family member will need to make several. Making the ornaments is a good project for Sunday afternoons during Advent. To make an ornament, first read the Scripture verses for the day. Then pick out one or two short verses that give the main idea. Copy these verses on the back of the ornament. By this time, you will probably be thinking of various ways to illustrate your Scripture verses. Use lots of creativity in making your ornament! You can use pictures from magazines or old greeting cards. Or draw pictures or symbols yourself. Color them with crayons, pencils, markers or paint. Look around the house for bits and pieces that will make your design beautiful! If you prefer to have a pattern already made, Caryn Talty, at Organic Living for a Healthy Family, has created 26 excellent ornaments which she graciously offers free – both full color and black and white.
Jesse Tree Scriptures (The Symbols Are Only Suggestions)
December 1 Creation: Gen. 1:1-31; 2:1-4 Symbols: sun, moon, stars, animals, earth