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Human and Divine

Knowing that God not only knows but experienced what it was to be a human being, composed of blood and flesh and bone, limited by all the things that limit us, should give us patience with our weakness and joy in our strength. In our prayers for help, we can say, “You know what it’s like,” and be confident that he does. But we can also look to the end of the story and know that by being one of us, he was able to raise us up to overcome those limits—and the final limit of death itself. As St. Irenaeus put it so well, “He became human so that we might become divine.”

—from the book The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections with Pope Francis

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Christmas Makes Life Merry

When some new possibility for your life stirs in you, something heretofore unknown and unfamiliar, Jesus is born. It is Christmas. When suddenly you realize that you can open your heart in love, when you have kept it closed for years out of fear, it is Christmas. When you consider how to spend your time, and you go to a hospital to visit the sick, Jesus is born and it is Christmas. Christmas is an archetypal event, deep within, and outside of history. Christmas is a mystery: It is not a puzzle to be figured out but a mysterious happening that transfigures life and gives it meaning. It makes life merry and worthy of our complete devotion.

—from the book The Soul of Christmas

 

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God Alone Is All We Need

Advent reminds us that the One who has come into the world and is always coming into our lives in new ways is the source of our salvation. We don’t need novelty and “magic bullet” solutions to our concerns. We simply need to return again and again to the rock-solid foundation of our lives: God and God alone. The mystery of the Incarnation is that by entering into our time and into our world, Jesus can show us the way to the gift that is beyond all time.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent

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Dark Days and Dark Moods

Dark days can mean dark moods. This natural turn of the seasons helps explain the timing of Christmas. It is the festival of light, the return of the sun and longer periods of daylight. It’s a time of renewal and hope, sentiments we feel as we watch the skies and see faint signs of the sun returning. What happens in December in the northern hemisphere is a natural symbol. You don’t need a dictionary or an encyclopedia to know that the dark sky parallels your darkened heart. You feel it in your body and then in your emotions. The sky mirrors your feelings, and your pulse beats with the special rhythms of night and day. The turn of the sun on the day of solstice may well coincide with a turn in your spirits.

—from the book The Soul of Christmas

 

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A Celebration of Profound Change

People usually think of Christmas as a traditional and sentimental festival, but not as a celebration of the Jesus vision it commemorates: a philosophy of profound reform. The child lying in the manger would become perhaps the most radical of all spiritual visionaries, showing how to live more joyfully and communally. Many people today feel an underlying anxiety due to world events and the challenges of getting along in a complicated world. Christmas allows a break from that gray depression, an inner darkness reflected in the winter sky. 

—from the book The Soul of Christmas

 

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Take a Step Back

We are constantly surrounded by advertising in a growing variety of forms. Ads creep into nearly everything we do. And this ramps up even more during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent invites us to take a break from the deluge of ads and seek something deeper and more lasting than the latest electronics or the best deal on that kitchen appliance that everyone needs this year. Advent invites us to seek a sense of peace and wholeness in our hearts and in our daily lives. If we do that even in small ways this year, we will have an immeasurable gift to share with our loved ones and possibly even with our world.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent by Diane M. Houdek


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Wants and Needs

Somewhere in the course of a childhood or a lifetime, we learn to balance expectations and reality. It has much to do with learning the difference between wants and needs. We rarely do this perfectly in our everyday lives. It’s even more difficult in the heightened atmosphere of Christmas, whether it’s visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads or the bells and whistles of this year’s electronics. Sometimes what we imagine as the perfect Christmas present fails to live up to its hype, and we’re disappointed. Sometimes something that seems mundane proves to be valuable in ways that go far beyond the glitz and sparkle of Christmas morning. 

—from the book The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections with Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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Symbol of Joy

The Christmas tree, so simple and yet so strange, is a natural symbol that speaks to many people without elaborate explanation. It was there, you remember it, you know it was meaningful, even if you can’t put that meaning into words. The lights and ornaments made you happy. You knew that Christmas was a special time, though you have never heard about liminality, utopia, or soul and spirit.

—from the book The Soul of Christmas by Thomas Moore

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Gifts of Immeasurable Value

We are constantly surrounded by advertising in a growing variety of forms. Ads creep into nearly everything we do. And this ramps up even more during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent invites us to take a break from the deluge of ads and seek something deeper and more lasting than the latest electronics or the best deal on that kitchen appliance that everyone needs this year. Advent invites us to seek a sense of peace and wholeness in our hearts and in our daily lives. If we do that even in small ways this year, we will have an immeasurable gift to share with our loved ones and possibly even with our world.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent by Diane M. Houdek

Read now