Even though they were late arrivals, that didn’t stop them from having a life-changing encounter with Jesus. When they finally made it the place Jesus was they were overjoyed. When they saw “the child with Mary his mother, they prostrated themselves and did him homage. They opened their treasures” to Him and allowed Jesus into their lives (Matthew 2:10-11).
When I think of Advent, I often think about how we witness so many historical events that led up to the birth of Jesus. From Old Testament readings, to Mary’s Annunciation, to purple and rose colored candles and more. I started to realize, though, that maybe my involvement in Advent has been more like spectating than participating.
Everyone knows the Christmas story and expects to hear it at Mass. You’d have to try really hard to live in America and not know the basics of the Christmas narrative.
But instead of hearing about shepherds scared by angels and a divine baby dressed in swaddling clothes, we hear the genealogy of Jesus all the way from Abraham down to Joseph (Mary’s husband, not the Old Testament Technicolor Dreamcoat guy). This probably leaves more than a few people wondering if maybe the priest messed up and is reading from the wrong book.
I’ll never forget when I learned Jesus wasn't really born on December 25th. It shocked me. I felt cheated … like somehow my adolescent life had just lost some of its innocence. Thank God, I thought, Santa was still real … that would have really shattered my holiday season.
I’m not going to say all guys are like this… but it is how a lot of people place value on their lives. What you do and how much stuff you have is generally what a person is judged by – especially a man. Do more stuff! Buy more things! Wear good clothes! Work harder than Jobs at your jobs! Be more successful than Wayne Wright! Don’t know who that is? Me neither. But some dude has that name and he obviously wasn’t good enough to accomplish things.
As it is with the Christian life, if we want to see clearly … as God sees … we have to look at the 'big picture' of salvation. If we want to understand Jesus' death, for instance, we need to begin with His birth and when we do, we will undoubtedly learn something very interesting . . . that He was born to die.
If you want to get technical, that 'pieta' moment first occurred not on Calvary, but in Bethlehem. The manger's wood was a foreshadowing; it is the 'cross' of Christmas. There is far more going on at Jesus' birth than many of us realize upon first glance.
Have you ever noticed that the Bible doesn't specifically say how many wise men showed up in Bethlehem? We're told that wise men from the East followed a star, interacted with Herod, and made their way to the manger (bearing gifts) but nowhere does it say how many men there actually were. So, how exactly did this idea of the 'three magi' begin if Matthew 2 doesn’t give an explicit number? Is this just the byproduct of an overzealous songwriter thinking that 'We Three Kings' sounded better than 'A couple of Kings' or 'About Four Kings'?
What would you ask Him? If you had a chance to ask God one question, what would it be? When I was little, I imagined heaven as some eternal question and answer session where we would sit around asking God those impossibly difficult questions that our older siblings couldn't answer.
As I prayed on the way to meet my friends, I thought about this blog that I had been tossing around in my head and the beauty of weakness (something that always sounds way better in theory than in reality) and I decided embrace my weakness instead of hide. So I shared my heart, along with some tears, and was met me with compassion.
If we're focused on what we can get out of God and not what we can give to Him, then our worship is selfish. Christ is faithful, but when we expect something in return we put Him in a box. Shifting our focus on what we can give Him frees us to receive His love the way He wants to give it.
The Magi did exactly that, and to Christ the true present was their presence.
We have four Nativity sets in my house: not out of overindulgence but out of sheer necessity. One set is for my five year old, who likes to take a more 'interactive' approach to the Nativity, including putting Disney princesses and Barbies into the Biblical narrative. Last year when I asked why the baby Jesus was in Barbie's convertible, she responded, 'Barbie is baby-sitting, Daddy… the trip to Bethlehem left Mary and Joseph very tired.'
You may have a Nativity set beneath your Christmas tree or on a table inside your house. You almost certainly have one on display somewhere around your local Church…
One of the biggest stresses of the Christmas season is gift giving. It can be difficult to find the right gift for a person. Or the stores you shop in are incredibly busy or your wallet isn’t keeping up with your heart (especially for students and others on tight budgets). Gift-giving should be joyful though!
To help you out we have a list of a few meaningful, inexpensive and homemade presents you can give to your friends and family. You can easily put your own spin on each of these ideas. Some of them might take longer to make than others but it's still a great way to show someone how much you appreciate the gift of their life!