“Searching For the Newborn King”

 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”

How do I seek out the Lord? What is the best way for me to draw closer to Him?

Jesus, show me the paths that lead me to you. 

 

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

What beacons of light and hope shine in my life?  Am I actually looking for them? Who are the people that lead me to Christ?

Lord, thank you for the people you put in my life—family, friends, spiritual leaders, and fellow pilgrims.  Help us to find ways to strengthen each other in our journey toward you.

 

“And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Whom do I say Jesus is?  What does his birth mean to me?  In all the noise and clutter of this world, am I taking enough time to reflect on life’s most important questions?

Jesus, in your mercy and love, continue to guide me toward my life’s purpose.  Give me the courage to do Your will.

 

“And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.”

Whom do I follow?  What things or ideas do I pay most attention to?  What are the signs that point me to you?

God, help me to recognize you in all things.  Teach me how to stay focused on what is holy and good.  Remind me to look for your light when faced with difficult situations or decisions.  Guide my thoughts and actions.

 

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother.”

In what ways can I model the Holy Family?

Jesus, help me to choose happiness.  Let me be content with the person I am; the person you created. Help me to accept the circumstances of my life with joy. 

 

“Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

What are the things I value most?  Do I take those “treasures” for granted?  How can I show gratitude for my life?

Lord, thank you for loving me.  Help me follow you faithfully.  Continue to show me ways in which I can be a gift for others.  You are my treasure.  Amen.

 

Sally Meyer

 

 

 

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

waitingcrib

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 3rd Sunday of Advent, by S. Margie Niemer

holyspiritFirst Reading: Zeph. 3:14-18a
Second Reading: Phil. 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

Reflection
Because the people of that day really wanted and hoped for a change in their lives, they turned to John the Baptist.  His baptism was something new, something different, and hope for the Messiah dawned in them again.  But John was clear about who he was and what his mission entailed.  He could attract, draw attention to, warn and urge, but he could not change the course of history.  He was not the Christ.
Prayer
O Coming Messiah, help us during this Advent season to look for you in the right places, among the poor and marginalized of society.  Help us be willing to seek the fire and Spirit that will lead us to true change of heart and mind. Amen.
Margie Niemer, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Waiting, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

marywaitingThe four weeks of Advent can hold several reminders for us. The first is that the Hebrews, the people Chosen by God waited about 4000 years for the Messiah to come. Therefore, we are waiting 4 weeks (actually 4 Sundays) for the celebration of the birth of Christ. We join our Jewish family in the person of Mary as we await the Redeemer’s arrival.

Another “4” that comes to mind is that Mary is in the last month, the last four weeks of her pregnancy. What is she doing? How is she preparing for the birth of the Savior of the world? What can we learn from her at this time?

The last month for the mother is uncomfortable. However, Mary, as with most pregnant women, has duties that mean she must be active in maintaining the home and her husband’s needs. She is going for water at the well and answering the questions of the other women who are there. “How much longer, Mary?” “Are you hoping for a son?” And then, chuckling, “Who knows, maybe your baby will turn out to be the Messiah!”

Mary answers the factual matters and ponders the others in her heart.  At home, she is taken up with cooking, cleaning, sweeping, and preparing clothing for the child who will arrive in four short weeks. Perhaps she is remembering the time when the angel came to her and all that has happened since then. Joseph’s concern and the angel’s reassurance, their marriage, and the physical changes in her body fill her thoughts.

Physically she is uncomfortable, but her spirit is glowing.  He will soon arrive!

We can learn so much from Mary. She ponders things that cannot be revealed at this time. In a few weeks, all the world will know that she has a wonderful son, a marvelous son. But for now, she must ponder these things in her heart.

Have you secrets you cannot reveal? Do you keep them secrets until the time comes for speaking? With the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, are you pondering the arrival of that greatest gift from God, Jesus.

If you say a prayer for the person who will receive the gift you are preparing you may connect yourself with Mary who certainly prayed for (and to) the child in her womb. It does not make any difference if you are preparing a gift for family, for friends, neighbors, or an unknown recipient. Pray for them as you wrap or write or seal their gift. Prayer is a more important gift than the one under the tree. Do not forget about it. It will keep you in touch with that greatest gift ever, ever, ever!

I have been praying for you as I write this Advent message. I thank God always for you.

Prepare the way! Make low the hills, and fill in the valleys! HE IS ON THE WAY!

Peace,

Sharonlu, OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

“I am the Light of the World”

Advent Candle

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” ~ John 8:12

God bent low to bring Jesus to earth.  Jesus is the center of earth and all creation.  “Christ is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

As we ponder the Incarnation these days before Christmas, we consider this definitive event in Christianity in which divine life spilled over into human life in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Since time began, the Holy One has been radiating light toward Earth in one continuous act of grace.  Karl Rahner calls this grace God’s self-communication, an outpouring of the very being of God that not only permeates but maintains our life.

God’s self-communication began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.  It was in and through God’s grace that stars were born and galaxies were formed.  God was present when explosions scattered bits of cosmic matter together in relationship.  Divine self-communication continued as Earth entered into orbit around the sun and took shape.  God’s grace was present, pushing toward life moment by moment.  Through grace came planets and sea life, birds and reptiles, mammals and humans.  God’s creative energy could not be stopped!!

The emergence of the first human species was a breakthrough moment in the living world’s relationship with the divine.  Our human consciousness, self-awareness, began.  We know that we know.  We can reflect upon our own experiences.  This new human species developed speech and language.  Language, flowing out of conscious memore was to set the species apart from all others.

Soon, our species began to make the connection that there was some Other who was bigger than themselves, whose power could be witnessed in nature – the sun, moon, stars, thunder, rain, fire, and water.  They recognized some mysterous force!  (Italicized section adapted from Judy Cannato’s Radical Amazement.)

Our spirituality realizes we are not alone.  There is a gracious power or energy at the heart of all life.  This divine force, the Creator who has always been present within all life, revealed itself in the conscious awareness of our human life.  In the Old Testament, we hear over and over again how the Hebrew people grappled with God.  They saw God as Force or Anger; or as Mother Hen covering her brood.  The psalmists prayed to God and sang his praises.

Then God came in the person of Jesus – the Word of God became flesh!  The Palestinian Jew changed everything for us.  He is the Incarnation – which means God-in-flesh.  Through Jesus and his interaction with the Holy One, God “Light” breaks through into life in a way never before experienced.  Jesus is able to absorb the gracious radiance of God that transforms those in his midst who are ready to receive Grace!

Jesus began to express his knowledge in a radically amazing way.  The universe is able to respond fully to God the Creator in the person of Jesus.  We are aware that all life is accepted and included in God’s love and grace.  God’s divine energy embraces all that is!

There is a connectedness with all creation.  Through relationship with God the Holy One, we are transformed by Love into love.  We incorporate Light into our being, and begin to radiate in a way that nourishes those around us with the breath of God.  We become compassion, service, wisdom, grace, and love that flows out of the experience of connectedness with Life.

Jesus is the revelation of God in human life!  We can become co-creative agents of Love to do the works characterized in Jesus, in Gospel living.

So as you await the birth of the Christ child these last few days before Christmas, we invite you to ponder the light that is waiting to be birthed in you – united in your celebration of Christ’s life and acceptance of your own path of discipleship.  Questions for personal reflection are offered below.

May your days be joyous and filled with the love of Christ incarnate, God-made-flesh to live among us.

Peace, joy, and Christmas blessings to all!

S. Olga Wittekind, PhD
Jungian Analyst & Director of Oldenburg Franciscan Center

Reflections:

“The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these.”  John 14:12  What Works does Jesus call me to do?

“You are the Light of the World… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16  How can I be Light to others?

Waiting

The season of Advent seems short, but the time it signifies is very long. Unlike the Lenten season, where we concentrate on our sinfulness and seek reconciliation with our God, in Advent we have the task of anticipating,  of connecting with the ancestors of Jesus as they waited for the Messiah approximately 4,000 years.  It was when Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the Mother of the Savior that the long wait was over.

Imagine Mary preparing for the trip to Bethlehem.  She is more than eight months pregnant, but she goes about the selecting of clothes for the baby soon to be born, and things she will need to care for herself and the child, as well as her husband Joseph.  As you prepare to visit children or relatives, join with Mary in her anticipation of the birth of Jesus.

The circumstances of housing when they came into Bethlehem were less than one would expect.  But Mary, like you, knew how to make do.  The Manger was small, and had sides to it.  Straw was available, and the Lord of Heaven and Earth slept there.  Do we have reason to complain when accommodations on a trip aren’t good?

Sheep are not the cleanest animals, and their woolly scent can be very hard to take sometimes.  Shepherds carry that scent with them, and being watchers in the night, have less chance for washing so they may be less than easy to be with.  But they are the ones chosen to see the Christ Child first!  Poor, unclean, uneducated, rough and gruff, but CHOSEN!

What can you do this Christmas for those who are most like the shepherds?

My wish for you is:

Peace, the peace only God can give;

Joy, the joy that comes from giving; and

All Good, and that can only be God.

S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF, Educator
Oldenburg Franciscan Center