Music and the Gospel: “Tell the World,” Lecrae; 4th Sunday of Advent

Just as Mary gave birth to Jesus, we are also called to bring forth the love of God in our families and communities. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we can bear witness to this unending love and grace in our daily words and actions. After all, it is our responsibility as believers to tell the world what it needs to know!

Key Lines: “I’m a witness that you did this / and I’m brand new so I…I’m ready to go / and I’mma tell the world what they need to know / a slave to myself but you let me go.”

Questions: How do you feel brand new? How can you renew your faith in Jesus and commitment to his way of love this week as you celebrate his birth? When can you plan to take a few moments in gratitude for God’s immeasurable love for you?

Listen To The Prophets Among Us

via Flickr user Dennis Skley

via Flickr user Dennis Skley

December can be a crazy time of year. The semester is winding down and school is starting to get old. Winter sports are gearing up. The days are short and the nights long.

In the North, the breathtaking cold creates a feeling of vulnerability. There always seems to be too much to do and not enough time to get it done. Pre-Christmas advertising hits fever pitch, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed — or just tune out Christmas until we have time to think about it.

Advent is the Church’s antidote to the craziness of the season. Advent reminds us to slow down, take a deep breath, and find a quiet space in our lives. Advent invites us to join the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem — BEFORE the angels arrived.

There they were, camped out under the stars — no televisions, no radios, no cell phones, no teachers, no coaches, no deadlines. Just a handful of people and flocks of woolly animals, dozing in utter darkness.

John the Baptist’s words remind us to reflect on who we are and how we are prophets to one another.

In the Old Testament a prophet speaks for God to the king and people. A prophet speaks and acts publicly, putting his or her life on the line to deliver a message people and their leaders don’t always want to hear. Usually the message includes a call to be faithful to God and care for the poor.

In Jesus’ time and today a prophet sees, judges, and acts and urges hearers to do the same.

Put your faith in action by brainstorming a list  of modern-day prophets: musicians, teachers, scientists, politicians. Write your own rap or poem expressing your feelings and dreams about being who you are. Perform them for your group. Encourage your family or friends to simplify Christmas gift giving this year. Make a donation to an organization that helps those with fewer resources.

Music and the Gospel: “Do Life Big,” Jamie Grace; 3rd Sunday of Advent

Rejoice! There are prophets all around us proclaiming the Good News! Jamie Grace is one of them. As we journey through the third week of Advent, her song challenges us to think about how we can be prophetic voices in our own community. She sings about what this might look like:

Key Lines: “So go and do life big… / So spread your wings and fly. / Now go and show no fear. / You are enough to change the atmosphere.”

Questions: What are your hopes once you go to “spread your wings and fly” as a voice for truth? How does being joyful bring light into others’ lives?

 

Why Traditions?

via Flickr user Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

via Flickr user Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Rituals form around actions, symbols, and stories that are so sacred and so important people want to repeat them and take strength and meaning from them. However, many Christians may grow up taking part in rituals whose full meaning they don’t understand. They may participate with their families in rituals without knowing the stories that give rituals meaning.

The tradition of La Posada comes out of Hispanic culture, which understands God walking with them and strengthening them in their struggles. La Posada takes place before Christmas. Two people dress up as Mary and Joseph. Then many people walk with Mary and Joseph from house to house, looking for a place to stay. They get turned away from several houses until at a preplanned house, a family takes them in and serves refreshments to all the people who come with them.

La Posada celebrates God’s presence in a poor young pregnant girl. Among people who try to immigrate over U.S. borders to find a better life, who want to migrate out of poverty, this tradition celebrates God coming to dwell among those for whom the world doesn’t want to make room.

The Eucharist is a tradition that begins with Jesus at his last supper with his friends. He tells them to bless, break, and share bread to remember his love for them. Jesus tells his friends to bless and share a cup of wine to remember his love poured out for them.

Through the centuries Christians have gathered to do as Jesus asked. In every Eucharist Christians become what they celebrate. They receive the Body of Christ and become the Body of Christ. The sacramental traditions of the Catholic Church continue to remember and celebrate Jesus’ healing, forgiving actions among us.

New traditions arise. The pope usually kisses the ground when he arrives in a new country. Families join walks for breast cancer on Mother’s Day or other walks for good causes. It’s the stories behind the traditions that give them meaning.

What special Christmas traditions does your family have? What Advent or Christmas traditions do you experience that you don’t understand? Research their origins by talking with a grandparent or reading in a Catholic encyclopedia or searching online. What customs or traditions have you experienced among people of other religions? What is a tradition you would like to start in your family, such as alternative gifts or an Advent wreath and prayer time?

Music and the Gospel: “Below My Feet,” Mumford & Sons; Second Sunday of Advent

As we move into the second week of Advent and light a second purple candle on our Advent wreaths, it can be so easy to slip into the chaos of the Christmas season. This song offers a chance to set aside some time to contemplate the world around us. We can reflect on how we might use our hands and eyes to serve with and learn from those around us, for that is preparing the way of the Lord.

Key Lines: “Let me learn from where I have been / Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”

Questions: How do you prepare spiritually for the coming of Christmas? In what ways are you utilizing your eyes and hands to learn about your faith tradition?

 

Music and the Gospel: “Big Yellow Taxi,” Counting Crows ft. Vanessa Carlton; 1st Sunday of Advent

Whether a friend moves away or the open field down the street becomes a housing development, we often don’t realize how special the friend or the open space was until we no longer have them. We grow so used to God’s wondrous creation surrounding us that we easily take it for granted. It is important to treasure all that God has created in this beautiful world, and through this appreciation work to preserve our kin in creation.

Key Lines: “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone / They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot”

Questions: What did you last eat or drink? Where does this nourishment come from? How does God’s creation produce this food for you? How do you show appreciation for these gifts from creation?

 

 

 

Music and the Gospel: “Use Somebody,” Kings of Leon; Feast of Christ the King

God asks each of us to love our neighbors — this includes those who live next door and those that live half way around the world. When those we love are in need of our attention and help, we give to them without hesitation. People all over the world are asking for help, for “someone like you” to take loving action.

Key Lyrics: “You know that I could use somebody / You know that I could use somebody / Someone like you”

Questions: Think of a time when you needed somebody, how were you able to get help? Beyond assisting you with what you needed, how did the person helping you provide that help? Did they talk to you in a certain way or listen to your frustrations? When you are helping others, what can you carry with you from your own experiences of being helped?