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O Holy Night

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The walk from the church of my childhood to home was exactly thirteen minutes. In Illinois, because of the crowds, you don’t count distances in miles, but by how long it takes to get there. I know it was thirteen minutes because we had to come home for lunch each school day and we had exactly forty-five minutes. That gave us nineteen minutes to eat. It also helped for the many times I attended Mass or served at Mass to know exactly when I would have to leave.

But there was this one night, this one late night when the walk was different - when it was magical, when it was a special night, when the walk home lasted forever—Christmas Eve, the first year I had returned from college. It was snowing as we left to go to the still then, Mass at midnight. The snow was eight inches deep by the end of Mass. I helped a few people clean off their cars before my two sisters and I headed home, the only brave souls of my large family that chose to attend. The streets were abandoned, so we walked down the middle of the road. The moon was full so the new snow shimmered like diamonds as we passed darkened houses. All was quiet. We three spontaneously began to sing the Christmas hymn which is now my favorite, O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We walked into a scene of joy and laughter as my relatives were all gathered around the table for the after midnight feast. It is what was done back then.

There was no more pleasant a Christmas Eve I remember, nor a more sacred and silent night. As you gather family for this feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, share with each other your favorite Christmas story, the time you really felt the presence of Jesus and really knew that God is watching over you.

We Have a Choice

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Advent brings back many fond memories for me, does it for you?

I remember decorating our home with our Nativity set and an Advent wreath. One of my favorite memories was the Advent calendar which helped count down the days and also offered a bit of chocolate as a reward. There were the catalogs that came in the mail, and searching through them for what I hoped to receive for Christmas. Most of all, I recall a time of great anticipation and preparation for the birth of Jesus, and well, there was Santa too.

The gospel stories tell of that same anticipation and preparation. They remind us of God’s plan for our salvation. The plan where His love, so pure and freely given, sent the Word made flesh, Jesus, to save us. I think it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of life where Christmas comes and goes, and the stress of life can cloud our vision and dampen our enthusiasm of this amazing gift. The stories encourage us to not let anything get in the way of our anticipation and preparation.

  • Are you heading into this season with anticipation and excitement, just as a child?
  • Are you allowing your anxieties to dampen your enthusiasm?
  • Will you let the Christmas parties, shopping, decorations, concerts, Christmas cards, and stress obscure the most beautiful gift ever given?

We have a choice.

That gift is the Son from the Father. A gift given solely because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. That is something worth all the anticipation and preparation we can muster. Let the mystery of what has occurred, and is yet to occur, shape our daily life.

Built Solid & Strong

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It was a black Brimnes wardrobe with 3 doors. It had a mirror mounted in the front and lots of shelves inside for storage. I was so excited to make my purchase at Ikea, deliver it to my house and prepare to put the entire wardrobe together. I opened the box, laid out all of the pieces and began the assembly process. Not too bad, I thought. I can look at the final photo and figure everything out. I mean, how tough could it be to put together?

Yeah, right. It took me three minutes to get confused. Was “A” a left side panel or right? Which screws was I supposed to use for the top? Did I attach the shelves first or last? I knew I was in over my head and reached for the instructions.

That made me think about how I assemble the days of my life. Am I simply laying out all my pieces and randomly trying to put things together? Do I know my priorities ? Do I know the steps I should follow to get things accomplished?

If only life came with instructions.

Ah…but they do. God has given us two simple instructions:

  1. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s it. The instructions are clear and easy to understand…IF we take the time to read them. So often we think we can do everything on our own. I don’t need God’s help. I can figure this out on my own. I have all the answers.

But there always comes a moment when we realize that our lives are made up of lots of screws and lots of shelves, each with different uses. If we take the time to ask for help and follow God’s instructions, there is no doubt that our lives will be built solid and strong.

Posted by Dan Herda

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