Christmas Lights, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

ChristmaslightsThere is something about Christmas lights that is like no other lights throughout the year.  Just think of the houses that do not have their Christmas lights removed.  You can see them gleaming in March, but it is different.  The lights of  Christmas, whether white or red or multicolored touch something in us.  Usually it is at the beginning of the season. We see a tree decorated, and admire it, but when the lights come on, there is a gasp coming from the entire group watching. Wondrous!  Then we get used to it and by December 27 the Wow factor subsides.

Christmas lights should remind us of the bright bevy of angels the shepherds saw.  Or perhaps the star that for 2+ years the Magi followed.

At present I am living in our infirmary recuperating from surgery.  Across the hall from my room Sr. Kathleen enjoys the longtime friendship of a very creative person.  Her wall has butterflies, ivy and at this season of the year Christmas Lights. The lights form a tree of sorts and a frame for the large clock.  Those lights are turned on from the time Kathy wakes until she falls asleep.  Wonderful!

Lying in my bed at night, I see the reflection of those lights in my window. A poinsettia plant from the Adopt-a-Sis girls I meet and a small tree on my window sill seem to come more alive in the reflection.

I got to thinking.  A gift to someone else has also become a gift to me.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”  That being so, maybe I need to see how the light given me by Jesus, can reflect in the lives of others.

Merry Christmas and may the light you are shine brightly all year long.

Sharonlu OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg


The Advent Wreath, by Jennifer Profitt

Candlelight_AdventThe Advent wreath, which graces my kitchen table this month, reminds me with the warmth of glowing purple candles of Christmas approaching. Nightly as I say a grateful prayer of blessing upon the meal before me, the increase in candlelight with every new Sunday magnifies the growing message that Jesus is coming.

This late autumn I have been blessed to have friends welcoming in new little babies into the world. The arrival of these new babies, the growing excitement to meet them, to hold their tender selves in the new World outside the protective one they have known for the last 9 months, is thrilling. Something in my spirit catches at the sheer joy of it all.

How easy it is for me to conjure the image of Mary awaiting the birth of her child –especially in the last weeks before delivery. How easy it is for me to grasp the joy of others who anticipated His birth.

As exciting as it is to welcome any new child into the world, to appreciate the wonder of tiny fingers and wrists, to share in the joy of a family that adds another little one. Here is where I marvel most: Mary’s little baby who will be called Jesus, who will be surrounded by his mother’s arms and held so closely to her that His tiny ears hear her heartbeat, this little one will be the Savior of us all. Yes, the Savior to someone like me, the very woman who this month enjoys her nighttime meal with flickering purple candles and anticipates His arrival in participating in an advent remembrance tradition some two thousand years later. What a wonderful way to acknowledge that Jesus is coming to the world for everyone.

Jennifer Profitt
Spirituality & Psychology Retreat Facilitator
Oldenburg Franciscan Center

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, by S. Therese Tackett, OSF

4thSundayAdventFirst Reading: Isaiah 17: 18
Second Reading: Romans 1: 1-7

Gospel: Matthew 1: 18-24

As we approach the celebration of Jesus coming into the world, the readings are filled with the urgent theme of the reality of what happened over 2000 years ago.  God came into our world in the human form of a small baby.  He came to live in our reality and grow up in it.

In all three readings we hear the words “God is with us.”  God is still in our world in each one of us.  How does my life show God to the world around me?  How is God present to me?  How can I better reflect God to those around me, and to those with whom I live or those with whom I work?  How can I reflect the Compassionate Love that God sent into this world in the form of the small infant Jesus?

Emmanuel, please guide us to imitate your Son’s love in all that we do each day.  Amen.

Therese Tackett, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Cultivating a Waiting Spirit, by S. Mary Beth Gianoli, OSF


I don’t like to wait.  I never have and I probably never will!

However, Advent has always been a special time for me.  Maybe it was the way my parents approached that time that made waiting bearable and even exciting.  We had a lot of family traditions celebrating Advent including the traditional Advent wreath, Advent calendars, and Advent resolutions.

When I was very young, my dad made me a little wooden crib out of some scrap lumber.  The crib was for baby Jesus and my job was to get it ready for his arrival.  Every day that I fulfilled my Advent resolution I got to put a cotton ball into that crib.  If I didn’t have a good day, I had to put a wooden toothpick in the crib.  I wanted to have a lot of cotton for the little baby to lie on so I did my best to keep my resolution.

Not only did this simple practice help me to adopt some positive behaviors, it also helped me to wait patiently for the Babe of Bethlehem.  I surely didn’t want that baby to arrive until the crib was ready!

I still have that little crib.  Although I have replaced the cotton balls with straw, I still try to keep my Advent resolutions … and wait patiently for the coming of the newborn King.

S. Mary Beth Gianoli, OSF
Leadership Councilor, Sisters of St. Francis Oldenburg

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent, by S. Patty Campbell, OSF

3candlesFirst Reading: Isaiah 35: 1-6a
Second Reading: James 5: 7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11: 2-11

Advent–the season in which we anticipate the coming of God as one of us–Jesus the Christ.  All three Scripture readings for today enunciate clearly our need to be paying attention.  Isaiah claims our eyes will be opened.  James calls us to patience with ourselves as we pay attention.  And Matthew has Jesus asking the question: “What do you go out to see?”  I believe the first person I need to see is myself as I go forth.  Do others find in me the God who loves them, accepts them, listens to them?  Who is the God in me who waits for me to be for others the Jesus who we wait for this Advent season?
Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of my soul so that I may get new insights into who I am for myself and others.  Teach me to be open to God’s call in me, and to go forth each day as Jesus did.  Help me listen to your message that day, and accept others as you do with love and compassion.  Amen.
Patty Campbell, OSF

Recognizing our “Advent People,” by S. Margie Niemer, OSF

The Apparition of Christ, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Apparition of Christ, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The holiday season is a time when most of us think of significant people in our lives.  Some are deceased, some have played a part at a particular time in our lives, some have always been a part and continue to bless us in the present.  The Advent season features accounts of the lives of people who played a role in the time leading up to the birth of Jesus: Anna & Joachim, Elizabeth and Zachary, Mary and Joseph.  Perhaps the most controversial is John the Baptist.

John lived in the desert, had no paying occupation, ate odd things, and preached to anyone who would stop to listen. His message was hard and grim, brooding and dark. His preaching could be described as a warning: repent or be lost.

But this was John’s purpose in life, the reason he was born.  His job was to close the Old Testament.  Jesus recognized this when he told the people that up to John’s time, the law and the prophets were what mattered.  With the coming of Jesus, that chapter is over and the Kingdom of God begins.

We are invited into that Kingdom as builders, not as passive bystanders.  Who has helped you become a Kingdom of God Builder?  Those people who taught and encouraged you are your Advent People.  This week, remember to pray in gratitude for them.

Margie Niemer, OSF
Leadership Council, Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, by S. Marta Aiken, OSF

First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

After years of destruction and waiting, today’s readings mirror hope with a word of caution and repentance as is echoed by Paul in the second reading and in the Gospel by John the Baptist with his urgency to repent.  Indeed, “The Spirit of the Lord must rest upon us.”  This new life is and may become a reality if we hold to the practice of a life of true reconciliation.  Beautifully, Isaiah gives us a symbolic lesson that holds the means to live it:  “…accept one another and live in harmony.”

Paul promises that the desert will bloom again, so Loving God, rest upon us so that the depth of life, a life of goodness and integrity, of wisdom and sound judgment, will blossom and be our new transformation.  May you guide us in our attempt to bring peace and harmony to our world.  Amen.

Marta Aiken, osf

One Advent, Not Two, by S. Maureen Irvin, OSF


As we begin the season of Advent, many of us feel torn. We sense a conflict between our desire to really celebrate the season by reflecting on the readings of the Church and concentrating on the spiritual meaning of Advent and Christmas, and the fact that we are constantly bombarded by the advertisements, the carols and the decorations that begin earlier each year. There is some wisdom in the encouragement that “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  The super-busy, hectic, all-consuming preparations for and celebration of the holiday of Christmas are probably not going to change, but they do not have to dampen the real spirit and meaning of Advent. This year, I am determined not to have the usual tug-of-war.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I posed to my family, how they would suggest maintaining a calm and peaceful balance between the spiritual and secular preparations for Christmas. My brother, Dan, suggested fully entering into all of the shopping, baking, gift- wrapping and parties of the season, but also consciously setting aside a time each day or each week to pray and reflect on what it means to have God incarnate in our midst. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but just a dedicated time to which we can be faithful.

My sister-in-law, Karen, advised constant mindfulness. She encouraged that while baking or wrapping or decorating, we enter into the experience fully. Don’t think about what else is on the “to-do” list or what you will do when you complete this task. Just do whatever you are doing with great mindfulness. Enjoy the lights, the colors, the aromas, the textures, the music, the friends, family and co-workers, the delicious foods and festive drinks. All are gifts from our loving God. All are a part of human experience and part of our natural world, which God wanted to share completely—hence, the incarnation.

My own idea is to look for the symbolism is what we see, hear and do. Candles can remind us that Christ is the light. Children’s voices can speak to us of hope, joy and love, while also calling to mind Jesus’ birth and childhood. Wrapped gifts can represent the multitude of gifts, yet to be discovered and realized from God’s bounty. Decorations show that this is truly an important feast for which we want to “deck the halls.” Parties and festive food and drink can represent the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, Christ, our spiritual food.

The beautiful season of Advent is to be lived, not just endured or tolerated.  It is one season that holds incredible richness, not two seasons (one secular and one spiritual) that compete for our attention. Let’s make every effort to really celebrate all that we experience these days as we await the Feast of Christmas. Relax, enjoy, be mindful, be calm and at peace.

May you have a happy and holy Advent season!

S. Maureen Irvin, OSF
Congregational Minister
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent, by Br. Joseph Bach, OSF

advent1First Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm Response: Psalm 122:1-2, 3-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!  In Isaiah’s vision in the first reading today, all nations shall stream to God’s house where they will learn God’s ways of peace and justice.  Learning God’s ways of peace and justice require that we awake from our sleep and stay awake without being distracted by things that do not allow us to walk in the light of the Lord.  During this time of waiting in joy and in hope, let us be reminded to stay awake so that we can recognize the ways that God comes to us and instructs us in ways of peace and justice in the people and events of our daily lives to help prepare us for God’s coming in Jesus Christ.  As God announces peace through the Incarnation, we remember our call as Franciscans:  As they announce peace with their lips, let them be careful to have it even more within their own hearts.  No one should be roused to wrath or insult on their account, rather all should be moved to peace, goodwill and mercy because of their gentleness (TOR Rule 9).  What are these things that distract us from God’s ways of peace and justice?  Do we have the peace in our hearts that allows us to move those we encounter towards peace?

God of Peace and Justice, during this time of Advent, teach us how to live in your love and show us how to walk in your ways.  Give us the strength and courage to be a light for others of your love, your peace, and your justice as we await your coming among us through the Incarnation.

Br. Joseph Bach, OSF