3rd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Under orders from the king, the English armies occupying Ireland in the seventeenth century enforced the suppression of the peasants' "Roman" religion. Priests became outlaws, forced to minister on the run and celebrate the sacraments in secret.

When Christmas came, some Irish families would place burning candles in their windows and leave their doors unlocked. The suspicious English demanded to know the purpose and meaning of this custom. The Irish would explain that the candles were lighted and their doors left open so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay on Christmas Eve, might find their way to their homes where they were welcomed. The English considered this just another silly Irish "superstition" and thought no more of it.

But the lighted candles were actually a signal to any priest in hiding that this was a "safe" house where they could come and offer Mass on this sacred night.

We continue to mark this holy season with lights in our windows, as well as on our doorposts and Christmas trees. But let our lights be more than mere decorations. Let our lights announce the dawning of the Christ - the light of God's own "work" that shatters the darkness of the long night of sin and alienation; the sacred light that illuminates our vision to realize God's dream of a just world of peace and compassion; the holy light that heals us of our blindess to the pain and anguish, the poverty and suffering of others.

Meditation: What decorations in your home are the most meaningful to you? How to they express the true meaning of Christmas?

Prayer: Christ our light, may the candles and lights we use to decorate this Christmas remind us of your love in our midst. Let the brightness of your love and mercy shine brightly in every season before us; may your light be reflected in our hospitality to all who come to our home during this Christmas season.

from "Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2011-12" by Jay V. Cormier