In this final eNews before the holidays, I want to extend my Christmas greetings to all those who read this column – May our hearts find their way to the light and joy of Jesus in this sacred season!

Those words are easy to say, but challenging to live given all the darkness we can feel in the world around us, with its wars and poverty, its disease and corruption.  Yet Christmas is a season to celebrate LIGHT in that darkness; we say Christ is the Light of the World.  During our Advent liturgies, leading up to Christmas, we have reflected on how we can actually have access to or receive that light.  You’ve heard the old adage, “Happiness is an inside job.”  The same could be said of spiritual light.  It is not something “out there” to be seen, but rather an internal connection with God in Jesus that gives us hope, faith, and trust even in the midst of challenges, losses, darkness.  That internal experience is a light internal to us, the presence of Christ in us, that shines out into the world and begins to illumine whatever darkness may be there; we see things differently.  The hope and faith born in us grants us a conviction that God is present and active, saving the human race from all its dark tragedies.

Our Advent practice this year has been an invitation into this spiritual dynamic.  We have been asked to pay attention to how we are moved and touched during the liturgy, especially during the Liturgy of the Word – because where we are so moved, we realize that God is at work; it is there that we are encountering Jesus as he speaks to us, enlightens us, and calls us to follow.  We have noted these places and written them down (in the Ignatian tradition of spiritual journaling) and shared them in community on our “wall of light” in the hallway.  If you haven’t yet done so, take some time when you are at church to read the cards on the wall, and see how the Spirit is moving among us as a whole community. Let the Light grow brighter in you in this way!

December 17, this coming Sunday, marks the first day of an ancient Advent practice in the church, the “O Antiphons.”  These are chants from the ancient monasteries that use a different title for Jesus, the Coming One, for each of the final eight days before Christmas. The titles are based on Old Testament prophecies; this Sunday is “O Wisdom”, while the last one on December 24 is “O Emmanuel” (= “God-with-us”). The most familiar Advent hymn (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) is based on these eight chants.  They are so arranged that they hinge around the winter solstice, the day following the longest, darkest night of the year, when the duration of daylight begins to grow longer again. The full Antiphon that day reads “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”  You can see how these antiphons form an extended meditation on the coming of the Light.

As a final practice in our Advent Season, in the spirit of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’, the Green Team is offering a kind of contemporary adaptation of the O Antiphon practice with a series of brief prayers for the final nine days of Advent – a novena of prayers of thanks for all the different aspects of Creation, with prayer that we may be moved to greater care for Creation. You can pick up a copy on your way out of church this Sunday.

Have a blessed season of gatherings with family and friends.  See you in church when we celebrate the Light together, the Christ born ever-anew among us!