Rejoice! on purpose.

December 17th Sunday Readings.

“Rejoice always!” This Sunday we will hear this call to rejoice from St. Paul. The Churchjared-sluyter-342881 calls this Sunday Gaudate, the priests and deacons wear rose colored vestments, and we are reminded to Rejoice!

I know exactly what this looks like in children. I know what a little kid who is rejoicing looks like. Jumping up and down, boisterously shouting, maybe even fist pumps and high fives. Sometimes children even just sit and stare in unbelief in a stunned zombie like trance, overcome with joy.

While we know what it means to rejoice as a child, I think it is harder to judge what it looks like to rejoice as an adult. Sure, when our alma mater scores on the final drive to upset a hated rival, adults will jump and holler. On the day of a wedding adults will dance and raise glasses, but these are all culturally expected behaviors.

What does it look like when an adult spontaneously rejoices? I’m not sure I know the answer. But what I do know is that we have a whole host of behaviors that we do this time of year that I think are supposed to be the actions of rejoicing that seem to be so far divorced from their reasons that we forget they are actions of rejoicing all together.

As we rejoice on this third Sunday of Advent in anticipation of Christmas, what are we up to? We bake cookies, we decorate, we prepare a large meal, we exchange gifts, we see family and friends socially, we send cards, and more. Why? For me, sometimes, these actions become an end in and of themselves. We bake cookies because they are delicious and we always have. We put up a tree and decorate because we did it last year. We roast a silly amount of meat and buy much wine because people are coming over.

The reality for the Christian is that we bake, decorate, and feast because our Lord Jesus Christ has been born in Bethlehem. We rejoice because Jesus has become human. Jesus has become human to be close to us so that we can be close to God. Jesus has be born to heal, restore, and save us from death forever.

Nostalgia, pleasure, and habit aren’t good enough reasons to rejoice.

When those are our reasons for rejoicing, our joy ultimately falls flat. However, when we rejoice because the God of the universe love us so much that he puts our lives before his, then we rejoice for a right and justified reason. The reason for our celebration is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind! God is born to us!

Live It: Say a prayer of thanks when you serve the big meal, open gifts, or pour a glass of wine this Christmas. When rejoicing say, “Because of Jesus!”

My Name Is Not Winnie.

Dec. 18 Sunday Readings.

How did you get your name? Do you know the story of how you were named? How did 1892382-winnie_the_pooh_christopher_robin_walt_disney_characters_20639734_1240_768you decide on names for your kids?

A couple years ago my mom admitted that I am named after Christopher Robin from the popular children’s books, television, and movies. She often adds, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t name you Winnie the Pooh?” Yes, mom.

Maybe you were named after a family member or after someone your parents respected. Maybe  your parents tried to match you with the meaning of your name. Maybe your parents just liked the way your name sounded.

Whatever the case, your name is yours. Your name has powerful over you. Nothing stirs me to attention like someone shouting out my full name as if I am suddenly and certainly in trouble for something I undoubtably did.

In the gospel this week we hear how Joseph and Mary decided to name Jesus. God told them their son would be named Jesus. Think about it, they didn’t get to choose. One of the great joys of parenthood is that you get to name your children. You get to pick what people will call them (until middle school).

Mary and Joseph in, yet another, moment of profound obedience to God listen closely and do what that angel tells them, “you are to name Him Jesus.” Why? Jesus means “God saves.” Jesus’ very name tell us His mission. In the name of Jesus, we are reminded that God has come to save us. Jesus’ mission is to save us from slavery to sin and death and through him can live forever with the God who loves us without limit.

This Christmas, as you celebrate the coming of Jesus, remember that you are the object of Jesus’ mission. You are loved and you are His.

Live It:
Pray the name of Jesus. Try tomorrow to say, prayerful, the name of Jesus 12 times. How? Say Hail Marys (name of Jesus right in the middle). Invite Jesus in with the simple prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” Simply say the name of Jesus over and over as prayerful as you can, after all His name is a prayer!

The Good Word for Nov 30th – First week of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here. 

Do you remember the classic Folgers Coffee commercial called, “Peter Comes Home for Christmas.” (Watch it here.) I loved this commercial growing up and it was on every Christmas. In it, Peter makes his way home on Christmas and surprises everyone. It’s clear that no one expected him and yet there he was. And he made coffee.

The commercial is a little idyllic. I wonder if Peter’s parents prepared for him to come home? They weren’t expecting him and were happy he was there, but were they ready for him to come home? If they didn’t expect him to come home, I bet they didn’t do anything to prepare.

The question today’s gospel asks us is this – do we believe that God is coming to be near to us? Do we really expect God to come? If not, then nothing in our lives has to change. We don’t have to change anything about how we live or what we do day to day if we don’t expect God to come.

The message of the gospel on this the first Sunday of Advent, is that God is coming. God will return to his people. God is on his way and we should prepare, be ready, and be alert to his return. The key we can’t expect to know when God is coming, but we can be certain that God is coming.

If we believe that God is coming, what are we willing to do about it? How do we stay alert and ready? Jesus’ key word is “watch.” We have to look for God. My dad would say that we must keep our “eyes pealed.” We must look for God’s coming to us with the eyes of our heart.

Live It:
Pray everyday for this first week of advent this simple prayer: “God, open my eyes to see how you are coming into my life.”